Citing Fewer Moose, State Plans to Widen Wolf Control

Juneau Empire / Associated Press / August 30, 2004

FAIRBANKS - The state will expand its wolf control program this winter in areas of the state where biologists say moose numbers are declining.

Not only will hunters in airplanes be zeroing in on wolves in the Nelchina Basin and McGrath, as they did last year, but they will also be targeting wolves west of Cook Inlet near Anchorage and in the central Kuskokwim River region near Aniak.

The Alaska Board of Game at a meeting in March expanded the program to include the last two areas.

The state is aiming to kill upward of 500 wolves this winter in the four regions, all of which are reported to have declining moose populations due to predation by wolves, according to both the state wildlife biologists who manage the areas, and hunters who use them.

The state began accepting applications for the program this week. Permits are issued based on a pilot's familiarity and flying time in an area, as well as previous experience hunting wolves.

Last year, the state issued 33 permits for Unit 13 and five for the McGrath area. Hunters killed a total of 144 wolves last year - 127 in the Nelchina Basin and 17 in the McGrath area. It was the first time since 1994 that state has employed a lethal wolf-control program.

Then-Gov. Tony Knowles, who is running for the U.S. Senate, called a halt to the program. He refused to approve any lethal wolf control programs during his eight-year tenure.

His replacement, Gov. Frank Murkowski, supports the wolf control program. He overhauled the Alaska Board of Game shortly after his election two years ago and the new board almost immediately approved wolf-control programs for the McGrath area and Nelchina Basin by allowing private pilots to hunt wolves.

"The governor is committed to this course of action," said spokeswoman Becky Hultberg. "He thinks it's in the best interests to the people of area and he thinks the people should have some role in the game management where they live."

(Back to Current Events 0804)

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