Judge Rejects Aerial Wolf Hunting Injunction


Ben Deci / KTVA / Channel 11 /CBS / December 5, 2003


The runway has been cleared for an air-born wolf kill in a 1700 square mile area around McGrath. The plan to thin wolf packs was first passed by the Alaska Board of Game at the beginning of November. But environmental activists sued to stop the plan. Today, a Superior Court Judge in Anchorage denied the preliminary injunction against aerial wolf hunting.

The legal battle isn't over by a long shot. But today's ruling does mean that while the lawsuit makes it way through the courts, aerial hunting teams are free to go ahead with the wolf kill.

Wildlife lobbyists are hoping those teams won't do that, hoping tat the Department of Fish and Games will have them hold off until this issue gets settled. But there have already been three permits issued for the wolf kill and in all likelihood, those pilot hunter teams will now take to the air.

Their goal will be to kill off 40 to 45 wolves in the McGrath area. By removing those wolves, they hope to make more room for moose, and less competition for hunters who need moose meat to subsist.

But those who brought suit trying to stop the aerial wolf kill say it won't work... that the moose population is stressed by hunters much more than wolves. And they argue that hunting animals from the air is dangerous.

"But what we've got is permits being handed out to the general public.. to do fly bys... take pot shots at wolves. There are going to be injured wolves as well as those that are killed... It's a mess," said Dr. Paul Joslin, Alaska Wildlife Alliance.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance has company in the lawsuit. They are joined by seven other plaintiffs, including a group of activists called "Friends of Animals" based in Connecticut. That group, without the support of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, has threatened a tourism boycott of the State if the aerial wolf hunting plan isn't overturned. And that could hurt the State's second largest industry.

"The reality is, we'll feel the impact... we don't now what the severity will be," said Ron Peck Alaska Travel Industry Association. "I'd just like to say we have folks in the tourism industry that are on both side of the fence... so it's a real challenge for us."

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance says the majority of Alaskans don't support the aerial wolf kill. And they say today's decision is just a first step in the legal side of this battle. Now the environmental groups are huddling-up, trying to figure out their next legal move.

In her ruling Judge Gleason said the wolf kill was legal, mostly based on an amendment to the existing aerial hunting laws. That amendment was passed in May of this year.


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