Wolves Killed Under Alaska's Predator Control Program
Mary Pemberton / Associated Press Writer / Fairbanks
Daily News-Miner / January 30, 2004
Fourteen wolves have been killed so far in a state-sponsored predator control
program that has prompted demonstrations nationwide and a call for a tourism
boycott of Alaska.
The wolves were killed late last week in the Nelchina basin area about 100 miles
northeast of Anchorage, where state wildlife officials say the moose population
has plummeted because wolves and bears are killing too many moose calves, leaving
locals with too few moose to eat.
The program actually is off to a slow start, Bruce Bartley, a spokesman for the
Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said Friday. No fresh snow and blowing snow
has made the wolves difficult to track in the Nelchina area. Temperatures in
recent days plummeted to 40- and 50-degrees below zero, leaving hunter and pilot
teams mostly grounded, he said.
"I don't think that is hugely successful," Bartley said.
The state earlier this month issued permits to 28 teams to remove 140 wolves
from an approximately 8,000-square-mile area. The Nelchina plan requires pilots
to land the planes before the animals are shot.
Another wolf control program near the Interior town of McGrath, where three teams
were issued one-month permits, allows the animals to be shot from planes in the
air. So far, no wolves in the McGrath area have been killed, largely because
of unfavorable weather conditions. The goal there is to remove about 40 wolves
from a 1,700-square-mile area. Conditions for tracking wolves should improve
in February and March, particularly near McGrath, Fish and Game has said.
The Nelchina wolves were killed by six hunter and pilot teams. They will be allowed
to sell the wolf hides if they want, after the hides are turned in and plastic
tags affixed, Bartley said.
"It makes me cringe," said Priscilla Feral, president of the 200,000-member Friends
of Animals, when told Friday that the first wolves had been killed under the
program. The Darien, Conn.-based group is organizing what it calls "howl-ins" in
cities nationwide to try to stop the lethal wolf control program.
More than 50 protests so far have been held in cities across the nation, Feral
said. Two more are scheduled this Sunday in Washington, D.C., and in Burke, Va.
to coincide with Super Bowl football parties. One will be held Feb. 24, Mardi
Gras, in New Orleans.
Gov. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, has promised not to bend under the pressure of
animal welfare groups and their call to boycott Alaska's estimated $2 billion
tourism industry. He maintains that the state has an obligation to manage its
resources to benefit Alaskans.
Now that wolves are actually being killed under the program, the governor can
expect the protests to intensify, Feral said.
"I'm disgusted, but it will galvanize people to work harder," she said. "What
does it take, an avalanche to move the immovable Frank Murkowski? But the heat
will turn up."
Friends of Animals was behind a nationwide protest and tourism boycott a decade
ago that resulted in then-Gov. Walter J. Hickel ordering a moratorium on a similar
Alaska voters in 1996 and 2000 voted to ban aerial killing of wolves. Murkowski
signed a bill last June overturning the most recent ban. "It gives a black eye
to hunting traditions and values, and creates an image of Alaska that is anything
but welcoming to non-hunters," said Defenders of Wildlife
president Rodger Schlickeisen. --
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