Predator Plan Records First Kills
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 earlier this month 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
in the area has made the wolves difficult to track. 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 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 for 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 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
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. Wally 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 nonhunters," Defenders of Wildlife president
Rodger Schlickeisen said.
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