JUNEAU - Wildlife officials presented a new protocol to the Board of Game today that would allow Department of Fish and Game staff to kill young wolf pups in or near their dens as part of its predator control programs. This practice, known as "denning," is currently illegal under Alaska state law.
"We are highly disappointed with the department's decision to allow denning even if it is limited to department staff. The state's predator control programs are already viewed as scientifically unsound by the many biologists who have closely examined Alaska's programs. This move will further tarnish the department's credibility and hinder conservation efforts in the state," said Wade Willis, Alaska Representative for Defenders of Wildlife.
The new protocol established by the agency is viewed as the department's response to the massive public outcry sparked this summer when state officials shot three wolf packs from a helicopter in Unit 9D, then landed and shot 14 orphaned pups in the head at their den sites. To date the department has failed to reveal all of the details of the incident, but given the pups' ages, Defenders believes that the pups were inside or near their dens when they were killed - an action that is illegal even for state officials. According to the new protocol, officials will attempt to place the pups in zoos or other wildlife facilities before destroying them.
The unveiling of the controversial protocol comes as the Board of Game also considers proposals submitted by predator control advocates to allow hunters to practice denning. These proposals were first floated last January and March, but the Board of Game chose to table them until after the public voted on the aerial gunning ballot measure. With the defeat of the ballot measure at the August polls, aerial gunning can still be used to kill wolves - leaving conservationists to wonder why the denning proposals continue to move forward.
The Board will decide on those proposals in the next few days.
"There's nothing sportsmanlike about cornering and killing newborn pups, cubs and their parents in their dens when they're most vulnerable. Wildlife managers should not be conducting predator control efforts after April 30, when wolves are raising their young pups. This is one of the main reasons aerial gunning and other methods are not permitted after this time," Willis said.
Contact: Wade Willis, Defenders of Wildlife, (907) 276-9410; WWillis@defenders.org