Alaska Supreme Court Won't Hear Tok Wolf Trapping Case
LAST HURRAH: Friends of Animals will have to pay about $120,000.

Anchorage Daily News / The Associated Press / May 1, 2003


FAIRBANKS -- The Alaska Supreme Court has refused to consider an appeal of the nearly $200,000 damage award against an animal rights group whose Alaska researcher cut an injured wolf out of a Tok man's trap back in 1997.

Wildlife biologist Gordon Haber and Friends of Animals, which supported his work, were successfully sued by Tok trapper Eugene Johnson over the freeing of an injured wolf from his trapline in 1997.

In an order released Friday, the justices announced that they would not take up the case.

The Supreme Court had previously issued an order refusing to hear an appeal from Haber, who was also successfully sued.

The decisions mean that both Friends of Animals, based in Connecticut, and Haber have run out of options for appealing their case, except for petitioning to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That's not likely considering no federal issues are involved with the case, said Zane Wilson, attorney for Johnson, who died last June.

Wilson called the decision the "last hurrah" in a case that highlighted tensions between animal rights activists and trappers.

"All of this litigation that's been going on over the years is finally over," he said.

Johnson, an Alaska Native who lived a subsistence lifestyle, first sued Friends of Animals and Haber in March 1998, a year after Haber released a 2-year-old black wolf that had been caught in one of Johnson's traps near the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

Haber released the wolf by cutting the cable snare. Wire from the trap remained around the wolf's foot, and it died about three weeks later.

Haber's actions came under scrutiny after he distributed a videotape showing the wolf's release. He said the video was meant to draw attention to abusive trapping techniques and also contended that the wolf was illegally taken.

But a jury in Tok disagreed. That jury awarded Johnson nearly $200,000. Haber and Friends of Animals appealed to Fairbanks Superior Court, but Judge Richard Savell upheld the award last September.

Now that the appeals process is over, Wilson said that Johnson's family can only collect the money that Friends of Animals was ordered to pay, which will be about $120,000 once attorney fees and interest are included.

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