Wolf Song of Alaska News

Wolf Kill Protesters Plan Another Round of 'Howl-ins'

FRIENDS: Group hopes to stop state-sponsored predator control program

Mary Pemberton / AP / Anchorage Daily News / November 6, 2004

A Connecticut-based animal rights group is again taking aim at Alaska with more than two-dozen "howl-ins" planned in states from New York to Alaska.

Friends of Animals is hoping to put a stop to a state-sponsored wolf-kill program by targeting Alaska's $2 billion-a-year tourism industry.

A similar campaign begun last year fell flat with an estimated 1.4 million summer visitors coming to Alaska, up 100,000 to 150,000 from the previous summer, according to the Alaska Travel Industry Association.

Friends of Animals blames Gov. Frank Murkowski for allowing predator control programs to flourish since he took office in 2002. Under the programs, wolves are either shot by pilots and hunter teams from planes or killed after the plane lands.

The governor has said the programs are a necessary wildlife management tool to reduce predators and make sure that rural Alaskans have enough moose to eat.

"We cannot wait to howl with the people of San Francisco this Saturday and Sunday. We'll make sure that Frank Murkowski can hear us," said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. She was reached by phone Friday from San Francisco, where she was organizing the weekend protests.

Feral said she knew last year that it would be a hard-fought campaign. Friends of Animals expects to keep protesting as long as the governor is in office, she said.

The Darien, Conn.-based group had better success about a decade ago when it took 53 howl-ins in 51 cities for then-Gov. Wally Hickel to order a moratorium on a similar wolf program.

"I am undaunted," Feral said. "It is all deplorable and disgraceful, but it does not mean in a social justice movement you expect a four-month campaign to culminate in a great success ... I've told people that persistence is going to be the key."

Friends of Animals organized more than 150 protests last year.

The howl-ins will resume today with one in Sitka where wolf supporters will display posters announcing that "Alaska is planning a heart-stopping spectacle" and showing a wolf in a rifle's cross hairs.

Friends of Animals, along with members and supporters of the Last Resort Animal Sanctuary of Sitka, will again ask people to sign postcards to be sent to the governor pledging to boycott travel to Alaska.

In addition to Alaska, protests are planned this weekend for California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Arizona, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Protests are planned for Washington, D.C., and New York City later this month and in early December.

Friends of Animals also has placed advertisements calling for the tourism boycott in The New York Times Sunday Magazine and Mother Jones Magazine.

"We have seen these boycotts before. They threatened to boycott last year and frankly it was not effective," said Murkowski spokesman Mike Chambers.

"We value wolves but we need to manage them like we do any other wildlife," he said. "If Alaskans found themselves in a position where there weren't enough wolves we would be taking action to protect them. Currently, we find ourselves in the opposite position."

Alaska's wolf population is estimated at 7,700 to 11,200 animals.

Under the predator control program, 144 wolves were killed last winter around the Interior town of McGrath and in the Nelchina Basin northeast of Anchorage. That number could increase to 500 wolves under an expansion of the program to two more areas west of Anchorage.

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