Double the Size of the Aerial Wolf Killing Program
Grizzly Bears and Wolves on Federal Lands Also Targeted
November 01, 2004
Equally troubling the Defenders of Wildlife say is that this proposal will target wolves and bears on federal lands in Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve and the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. (Map of the area pdf)
Both the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have sent letters to the Board of Game asking that these areas be excluded from the state's control plans because this activity has not been approved by the two federal agencies, and would result in a significant conflict between State and Federal management, say the Defenders organization. And they say, the proposal also attempts to sidestep its obligation to first obtain federal consent by suggesting the state need only "coordinate" its activities with appropriate federal agencies.
"This Board's blatant disregard for science-based wildlife management and the public's strong opposition to aerial wolf killing is unmatched in the history of Alaska's wildlife management," says Karen Deatherage, Alaska Program Associate for Defenders of Wildlife. "Given this proposal to expand aerial wolf control and kill bears was prepared at the request of the Board of Game, unfortunately there is a strong likelihood it will pass."
The Alaska Board of Game will meet November 2 - 5 in Juneau to deliberate on a proposal which will target up to 400 wolves, as well as an unknown number of grizzly bears. This will be the first time since Governor Frank Murkowski overturned a citizen's prohibition on public aerial predator control that grizzly bears are targeted. Under the state's new Bear Conservation and Management Policy, hunters will be able to land and shoot, baiting, the killing of sows and cubs, or trapping to kill grizzly bears in this area states the Defenders of Wildlife.
Defenders believes the aerial control programs are illegal under the Federal Airborne Hunting Act ("the Act") and has petitioned Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to enforce the Act and stop the state's practice of using airplanes to chase down wolves and shoot them. The initial petition, filed last spring, was denied by the Secretary and the Secretary has yet to respond to an amended petition that was filed by Defenders in August based on the Board of Game's proposed large-scale expansion of the area designated for aerial control programs.
The Defenders report that last winter, 147 wolves in a 10,000 square mile area were killed by gunning teams using aircraft. In March, the Board of Game added two more control programs thus tripling the area to 30,000 square miles. Nearly 500 wolves are slated to be killed this winter. Applications for aerial gunning teams are currently under review by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, with permits expected to be issued by early December.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Board of Game will take oral public testimony beginning Tuesday, November 2. Anyone wishing to testify before the board must sign up at the meeting site before 4 p.m. on November 2nd. Public testimony will be accepted on specific proposals up until the proposal is deliberated. Written comments can be faxed to 907-465-6094.
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