Rachel D'Oro / AP / Juneau Empire / February 2, 2005
| Anchorage - An animal rights group said Tuesday it hoped to collect 28,000 pledges this month in support of an Alaska tourism boycott to protest the state's aerial wolf control program.
Friends of Animals also said it was launching virtual howl-ins to enable supporters to voice their opposition online. The Darien, Conn.-based organization has collected about 5,000 signatures at actual howl-ins, or protests, staged across the country since December, said group president Priscilla Feral.
The signatures will be mailed to Gov. Frank Murkowski in hopes of applying economic pressure.
"I admit it's like talking to a cement wall, but money is the only talk you can have with the Murkowski administration," Feral said.
The group is seeking to have the wolf program - authorized in five sections of the state - suspended until May 16 when the issue is scheduled for trial in Anchorage.
Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason last week refused to issue a temporary injunction in the matter. Gleason said she needed more time to review new concerns raised by the group.
The first such aerial wolf control program in a decade in Alaska was approved by the state game board for the McGrath area in 2003. Despite the publicity, the state's tourism numbers are climbing - up last year to an estimated 1.4 million people.
Feral said the rise in visitors is frustrating to her group, but members refuse to be dissuaded from their mission.
"Maybe more people would have visited if not for the public outrage over the issue," she said.
Over the next few months, the state has set a goal of killing as many as 610 wolves, with an aim to boost the number of harvestable moose. As of Tuesday, 93 wolves had been killed this winter, said Bruce Bartley, a spokesperson for the Department of Fish and Game.
Under program rules, teams are allowed to shoot wolves from the air in some areas but are required to land and shoot in others. In some areas, they can do both.
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