JUNEAU -- Two of Alaska's leading animal facilities say state wildlife officials did not try to place orphaned wolf pups with them before killing the pups.
The revelation is causing a stir ahead of Tuesday's primary election, during which Alaska voters will decide whether to curtail the state's predator control program.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists were given the OK from the state's Board of Game to kill wolves if necessary on the southern Alaska Peninsula to protect a caribou herd considered to be in trouble.
Biologists shot 14 wolves from a helicopter in June. On the ground, they discovered and killed 14 pups orphaned by the shooting.
The state's orphaned wildlife policy is first to leave an animal alone if it can survive on its own. If not, the department is supposed to look for a home. If no home is available, biologists are directed to kill the animals quickly instead of leaving them to die slowly.
Officials at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage and the Haines Animal Center, the likely candidates to care for such animals, said they were never contacted.
The Alaska Zoo would have taken in and sought permanent homes for orphaned wolf pups, one official said.
"The first thing I'd do would be talk to the curator, figure out how many (pups) for how long, figure out a place where they could be appropriately placed," Alaska Zoo Director Pat Lampi told the Juneau Empire. "We would certainly be willing to make some phone calls."
Both Lampi and Steve Kroeschel of the Haines Animal Center, an educational facility, said the state did not call to ask about wolf pup placements.
Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd wrote an opinion piece in the Empire last week, saying the pups were euthanized "because we had no offers from zoos or other facilities to take in such pups."
Joel Bennett, former Board of Game member and co-author of Ballot Measure 2 with Nick Jans, called that "clearly evasive."
"They really didn't make any effort ahead of time to try and place the pups," he said.
Lloyd was out of town Thursday and not available for comment, his office said. A message left for other department officials was not immediately returned.