Newspaper Ads Decry Alaska Wolf-Kill Program

Mary Pemberton / Associated Press / / April 22, 2004

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Defenders of Wildlife is running advertisements in the nation's biggest newspapers decrying a program where wolves in Alaska are being shot from airplanes.

In large letters, the full-page ads in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times say: "Stop the Aerial Killing of Wolves in Alaska!"

"There is a lot of anger among our members and general citizens all over the country. We are going to educate them about the program and bring as much pressure as possible on the governor to reverse the policy," William Lutz, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based group, said Thursday.

The ad ran Tuesday in the Post and Wednesday in the Times.

The Times' daily circulation is between 959,000 and more than 1 million. The Post's daily circulation is more than 732,000. According to Editor and Publisher, the newspapers have the fourth- and fifth-largest daily circulation in the nation.

In smaller bold print, the Defenders of Wildlife ad says: "Please help today. Over 100 wolves have been killed ... and more are slated to die." The ad has checkoff boxes for contributions. It also has a checkoff box for calling or sending a petition to Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski to demand an end to the program.

Lutz said the group has collected about 100,000 petition signatures.

Alaska this winter resumed the aerial shooting of wolves after a decade-long ban. Under the program, 180 wolves in two areas of the state were to be killed by April 30. At least 140 have been killed so far. The program is in response to complaints from residents that wolves eat too many moose calves, leaving them with too few to kill for food. The program will resume in the fall.

Wolves in Alaska are not a threatened or endangered species. Population estimates range from 8,000 to 11,000. About 1,500 wolves are killed in Alaska every year, mostly by trappers.

The first Defenders of Wildlife ad ran four weeks ago in the Christian Science Monitor, Lutz said. It also has run in regional editions of The New York Times and USA Today.

Los Angeles Times spokesman David Garcia said the paper can't disclose what Defenders of Wildlife paid for the ad. But he said full-page ads cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000.

Defenders of Wildlife, with an annual budget of $21 million, so far has raised about $88,000 for the campaign _ money that goes right back into the effort, Lutz said.

"When we raise money, we spend it to get more petition signatures," he said. . The wildlife group's efforts also have included an unsuccessful appeal to the Interior Department to find the program illegal under federal law.

Defenders of Wildlife is using the Internet to spread the word and raise money. Its Web site features a drawing by political cartoonist Bruce Plante showing two frightened wolves running from a small airplane.

One wolf says, "I thought there was an airborne hunting act to prevent this?" And the other wolf replies, "That was before Bush and Norton got here."

Another Defenders page capitalizes on an Earth Day theme. It says, "Mark Earth Day Through a Wildlife Adoption," next to a picture of a wolf pup accompanied by a message encouraging Web users to "Adopt a wolf today to help Defenders end the savage aerial killing of wolves. Already over 100 wolves have been killed under this barbaric program and hundreds more are slated to die."

The Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals, a 200,000-member group with a smaller budget, also is continuing its campaign to end aerial wolf killing in Alaska.

Last December, Friends of Animals launched a grass-roots campaign calling for a tourism boycott of Alaska. The group helped organize protests called "howl-ins" across the country where sympathizers were encouraged to send the governor a postcard promising to boycott the state's $2 billion a year tourism industry.

Nine howl-ins will be held around the country to coincide with Earth Day celebrations through Sunday, said president Priscilla Feral. By the time the campaign ends April 30, 157 howl-ins will have been held nationwide.

Feral said that won't be the end of it. The howl-ins will begin again in the fall, targeting the summer 2005 Alaska tourism season.

Friends of Animals also is directing its entire advertising budget for the year to the issue _ money that would have gone to discourage people from buying fur, Feral said. She aims to raise between $100,000 and $200,000 for newspapers and magazine ads.

"That is how I think we dramatically spread the word and build on what we've started," Feral said.

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