ANCHORAGE - The public opinion battle over predator
control continues even though Alaska's aerial wolf-kill programs
are winding down for the winter.
frustrating," said Matt Robus, head of the state's Division
of Wildlife Conservation. "We don't dispute at all the
controversial nature of this. All we ask is the real facts
be the things we debate."
Karen Deatherage, a spokeswoman for the national animal welfare
group Defenders of Wildlife, contends that if anyone is spinning
the facts, it's the state.
have misinformed the public by just providing snippets of
information," she said. "That's what Defenders wanted
to do, was provide the public with what's really going on
Defenders of Wildlife has run a series of newspaper ads in
Alaska and Outside critical of game management in the state.
The ad campaign drew a rare rebuke from state officials as
inaccurate and misleading.
populations in Alaska have never been threatened or endangered.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates a statewide
population that is growing slightly and now numbers 8,000-11,000
1,500 wolves are killed in Alaska every year, mostly by trappers.
Sport hunting is allowed but makes up only a small percentage
of the harvest, state Department of Fish and Game spokesman
Bruce Bartley said. It's almost impossible for hunters on
the ground to find and track wolves, he said.
hunting ended in 1972, when Congress passed the federal Airborne
Hunting Act. And Alaskans voted, in 1996 and again in 2000,
to prohibit another popular practice for killing wolves known
as land-and-shoot hunting. Pilots could spot wolves from the
air, then land and quickly shoot them.
the state always has had authority to kill wolves from the
air, provided it was to help moose and caribou stocks grow.
The current controversy developed when state game managers
enacted new aerial wolf-kill programs that leave the shooting
to private pilots.
state calls it predator control, with limits and controls.
Opponents view it as sport hunting in disguise.
late March, Defenders of Wildlife ran half-page ads in Anchorage
and other Alaska cities blasting the Board of Game for decisions
made earlier in the month. One new regulation allows bears
to be killed as part of predator control. Another permits
hunting of moose calves in areas where state biologists feel
moose stocks are too high.
the real story?" the ads ask. "First they say we
need to kill wolves and bears because there aren't enough
moose. ... Now they say there are too many moose and we need
to kill moose calves."
the ads ran in Alaska, Robus told the Anchorage Daily News,
"we felt that we couldn't allow things that were absolutely
not true to be put out in front of the public."
a letter to Defenders president Rodger Schlickeisen, Robus
called several statements in the ads and on the group's Web
site "simply untrue." Defenders had suggested that
helicopters were being used to kill wolves and that the wolf
kill was statewide.
Deatherage stood by the ad campaign.
feel absolutely comfortable and confident in our ads,"
true that helicopters are not currently being used, she said,
but the law allows their use. And while wolves are only targeted
for control in certain areas, the number of areas approved
for predator control more than doubled during the Game Board's
she said, it's true that sow bears and cubs are not being
targeted for predator control, but the Game Board made it
you look at the big picture of predator control in Alaska,
it's getting uglier by the minute," Deatherage said.
group isn't letting up. A full-page ad that ran Tuesday in
The New York Times reads in part, "Trophy hunters are
using airplanes to slaughter helpless wolves in Alaska. They
can gun the wolves down from the air, or chase them to exhaustion
in the deep snow - then land and shoot them point-blank."
ad urges people to complain to Gov. Frank Murkowski and to
make a tax-deductible contribution to Defenders.
understand perfectly that we're involved in something that
a lot of people dislike intensely," Robus said. "I
don't care if people don't like it. What I do care about is
what people use to sway the undecided public. We should try
to stick to the facts."