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State of Alaska Initiates Massive New Helicopter Wolf Slaughter

Hundreds of wolves targeted after public shut out from comment at Board of Game meeting

Wade Willis / Defenders of Wildlife / March 16, 2009

Attachment: Download pdf here (2.4MB)

Anchorage, AK - With just a few hours of advance notice, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) informed the National Park Service of an unprecedented helicopter-based wolf killing effort in the Upper Yukon/Tanana area of Alaska. As of Monday morning, at least 30 wolves were already known to have been killed, and up to 200 are being targeted by ADF&G staff using helicopters to kill the wolves, with added support from private pilots in spotter planes. Even radio-collared wolf packs that reside within the National Park Service's Yukon-Charley Preserve, the subjects of nearly two decades of research, are targeted, despite objections by the National Park Service.

This action is being conducted just days after the Board of Game (BOG) authorized the ADF&G to kill wolves in the region under a controversial plan that allows the state to hire private helicopters to kill wolves.  The ADF&G submitted their plan to the BOG after the public comment period was over, leaving no opportunity for the public to question their plans and motives.

"The Palin administration and the Board of Game are acting with complete disregard for scientific wildlife management.  It is unprecedented for such a wholesale slaughter to take place, especially when it is based on such shoddy science and when it includes wolves that have been collared by the National Park Service for scientific study," commented Defenders of Wildlife Alaska representative, Wade Willis.

The state is thought to have hired at least one helicopter, which was used for killing the wolves, along with at least three airplanes with expert trackers aboard to spot the wolves first. If the Board of Game population estimate is correct, and there are about 393 wolves in the whole Upper Yukon/Tanana area, the program could leave as few as 65 wolves alive. However, population estimates for wolves in the area are based largely on anecdotal information provided by hunters. There is a strong possibility that there are significantly less wolves than the BOG claims, in which case the helicopter slaughter could leave even fewer wolves.

According to the National Park Service's March 15 briefing statement (attached), if ADF&G is successful in reaching its goal, "this would leave one-to-two wolves per 1,000 square kilometers in the Upper Yukon Wolf Control Area, approximating the lowest known wolf population densities in Alaska." Upon learning of the state's plans, the Park Service requested a no-wolf kill buffer zone around the preserve, but the state refused.

"The Palin administration is showing complete disregard for the integrity of Alaska's national parks, which are after all federal land. This is an extreme response to what has never been more than an arbitrary target with no scientific backing," continued Willis. "There is no biological emergency to justify this kind of action and the fact that the public was given no opportunity to comment on this plan before the spring Board of Game meeting makes this whole operation even more egregious."

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