Thursday, December 04, 2003
Aerial Slaughter Of Wolves Approved Despite Voter Opposition
by Patricia Collier
Since the early 1970s, poll after poll has found that the overwhelming majority of Americans support efforts to protect and restore wolves. In 1996 and again in 2000, Alaskan citizens voted against killing wolves from the air as a way to control wolf populations.
But a new law now allows hunters in Alaska to shoot wolves from the air, in a manner called "aerial gunning", or land and then chase and shoot the terrified wolves they had already targeted from their airplanes.
Dubbed a "predator control program", aerial gunning has now been approved by Alaskan Governor Frank Murkowski, bringing back a method of population control for wolves not used in at least 15 years.
Murkowski and the Alaska Board of Game (ABG) claim the killing of wolves from the air is necessary in order to boost " game" populations, such as moose and caribou, so that there will be more of them around for hunters to track down and kill.
"This is not something new; the board has been working on this for the last several years," said board chairman Mike Fleagle.
Hunters obviously have a stake in the legalization of aerial gunning of wolves, since they want more moose and caribou to hunt.
But, according to researchers in Yellowstone National Park, wolves bring an important balance to ecosystems and, like other native predators, almost never cause an unsustainable decline in prey populations regionally.
Karen Deatherage, with the animal advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife, said the state's decision to reinstate aerial gunning of wolves has been made on the basis of "weak numbers" rather than sound scientific evidence.
Deatherage added that the board's action is an insult to Alaskan voters, who twice in recent years have said no to the aerial shooting of wolves.
"They've trampled on the voters' wishes and opened the door to the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of wolves," she said.
The aerial killing could start as early as January 2004, or even sooner in some areas of the state.
The Animal Protection Institute (API), as well as other animal protection and conservation organizations, has pledged a tourism boycott if the plan goes forward.
The presence of wolves can help generate revenue for local economies in Alaska from tourism, as it has in the Yellowstone area. Deatherage said a tourism boycott can be an effective way of helping to garner respect for voters' wishes.
Deatherage said her group and other advocates plan a public awareness campaign to urge people to contact Gov. Frank Murkowski to let him know this is an "absolutely unacceptable treatment of Alaska's wildlife," and that they and their families would prefer to spend their vacation funds enjoying states where wildlife are not ambushed and massacred.
Gov. Murkowski can be contacted via email at email@example.com, phone at 907-465-3500, or fax at 907-465-3532.
Â© 2003 Animal News Center, Inc.