A state-sponsored program in which aircraft are used to hunt wolves as part
of an effort to increase moose numbers in two areas of Alaska is winding down
for the season.
Under the aerial wolf control program, 147 wolves have been killed in the McGrath
and Nelchina Basin areas -- short of the state's goal of about 180 wolves.
The seasonal program ends Friday and will start up again next fall or winter.
"We are pleased with the results of the programs this season," Kevin Duffy, commissioner
of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said Wednesday. "Through the diligence
of our staff in administering the programs established by the Board of Game,
along with the localized control efforts to reduce predation, we are a step closer
to providing adequate moose harvests in areas where Alaskans depend on moose
Two animal rights groups had harsh words Wednesday for Duffy and the program.
"We find the program reprehensible," said Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien,
Conn.-based Friends of Animals, which has organized more than 150 gatherings
nationwide to protest the Alaska program. "We are committed to another reign
of protest when the program starts up again next winter."
Karen Deatherage, spokeswoman for Defenders of Wildlife in Anchorage, said it's
hard to square Duffy's statement with two ballot measures approved by Alaska
voters in 1996 and 2000 banning land-and-shoot wolf hunting.
"I find it hard to believe any government official in this state would be pleased
with the result of a program that goes against the will of Alaska voters," Deatherage
The state Board of Game approved the program for the McGrath area last fall in
response to residents' longtime complaints that predators were killing too many
moose calves. Under the program where hunter and pilot teams could shoot wolves
from the air, 40 wolves were to be shot. Half that number were killed in the
The program fell short of its goal largely because the weather around McGrath,
particularly early on, was not conducive to hunting wolves.
The board authorized a second wolf control program in the Nelchina Basin area
near Glennallen. That program was structured differently, with pilots required
to land their planes first before the wolves were shot. The program, with a goal
of taking 135 to 150 wolves, also fell short. As of Tuesday, 127 wolves had been
reported killed, Fish and Game said.
Feral said what the Game Board is implementing its blueprint for wolf control
for the entire state. Alaska's wolf population is estimated at between 7,700
and 11,200 animals.
"We see it as a routine extermination plan that will continue for years," she
Game Board, at a meeting in March, approved wolf control
for two more areas of the state, one in the central Kuskokwim
area in western Alaska and the other west of Anchorage
across Cook Inlet in Southcentral Alaska.