Anchorage -- A Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied a request from animal rights advocates to halt Alaska's aerial wolf control program until the issue goes to trial in May.
Friends of Animals and others are suing the state over a game management program they call a slaughter. The wolf program aims to boost moose populations in five areas of the state.
In her 15-page decision, Judge Sharon Gleason said the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the elimination of as many as 610 wolves this year would cause irretrievable damage to the species. As of Wednesday, 93 wolves had been killed this winter, state officials said.
Wolf populations here have never been threatened or endangered. The state Department of Fish and Game last year estimated there were 8,000 to 11,000 wolves in Alaska. About 1,500 are killed every year, mostly by trappers.
"The plaintiffs have made it quite clear that to them, the practice of killing wolves from airplanes to enhance moose populations for human consumption is a practice they find morally and ethically repugnant," Gleason wrote.
"But in balancing the hardships between the parties for purposes of preliminary injunctive relief, the fact that the state's aerial wolf control programs are in direct contravention to the plaintiffs' beliefs is not, under the law, a factor that is considered an 'irreparable injury' in determining whether preliminary injunctive relief is necessary."
Priscilla Feral, president of Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals, said the group has not decided whether it will appeal the ruling. But it will continue its long-running boycott of Alaska tourism to protest the wolf program, which Feral likened to "treating moose like livestock and ranching" them.
"Friends of Animals will continue to oppose the state's wolf control at every level, in every forum and at every opportunity," she said. "We remain adamantly opposed to the wolf shootings and to a tight-knit group of politicians contriving and inflating numbers to justify wolf control."
Feral said the group will continue its campaign to collect 28,000 pledges by the end of the month in support of the tourism boycott.
Friends of Animals also this week launched virtual howl-ins so people can register their opposition online. The group has collected about 5,000 signatures at actual howl-ins, or protests, staged across the country since December, Feral said.
The signatures will be mailed to Gov. Frank Murkowski.