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Judge Refuses to Suspend Alaska's Wolf Control Program

January 28, 2005 | Wolves

Challenge: Animal rights group's request is on hold for now

By Mary Pemberton
*Associated Press Writer, Anchorage, Alaska (Published: January 28, 2005)*
An animal rights group was unsuccessful Thursday in its attempt to persuade a judge to suspend Alaska's aerial wolf control program, now in its second year.

Friends of Animals is seeking to have the program -- now authorized in five areas of the state -- suspended until May 16 when the issue is scheduled for trial.

Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason refused to issue a temporary injunction Thursday, saying she needed more time to review new concerns raised by Friends of Animals. The judge also rejected a request to suspend the program even for a few days in the Tok area, where permits were issued last Friday but pilot-shooter teams have yet to kill a wolf.

"It is essential to me to knock this wolf program out," said Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals. "It is a tremendous carnage."

Over the next few months, the state has set a goal of killing a maximum 610 wolves to increase the number of moose for harvest in various areas of the state. Under program rules, teams are allowed to shoot wolves from the air in some areas but are required to land and shoot in others. In some areas, they can do both.

Gleason said she will issue a decision after receiving written closing arguments today.

If the program is suspended now, even for a few months, the more than $1 million already invested in the McGrath area, where the program has a research component, will largely be lost, said Matt Robus, director of the state Division of Wildlife Conservation.

"The next three months ... is the prime opportunity to take wolves in this fashion. It is the time this action is really effective," Robus told the judge. He denied plaintiffs' claim that more than 1,000 wolves were to be killed under the program.

While it is too early to know if the program is a success, Robus said moose calf survival in the McGrath area is looking better. That also may be true in the Nelchina Basin area, which also is entering its second year.

The multiyear program is debuting this winter in three other areas of the state: the western side of Cook Inlet, the central Kuskokwim River area and near Tok in eastern Alaska.

As of Thursday, 86 wolves had been killed this winter. Hunters reported killing 144 wolves last winter.

Friends of Animals has faced Gleason before. In late 2003, the judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction to stop the program.

James Reeves, lawyer for Friends of Animals, argued that if the program is allowed to continue the wolves will suffer irreparable and permanent harm -- that is, they will be killed.

The remaining wolves also will suffer long-term effects, said Gordon Haber, a wolf biologist whose research is funded by Friends of Animals. He testified that, unlike moose, wolves have complex family groups. Aerial hunting tends to take out the dominant wolves first, leaving a disorganized and vulnerable pack, resulting in higher death rates years after the program has ended, Haber said.

Friends of Animals and other plaintiffs contend that the Alaska Board of Game has established population and harvest goals for moose that are grossly inflated and unreasonable. But Mike Fleagle, Game Board chairman, said, if anything, the board is conservative when setting levels.

Bob Hardy, a registered big game guide in the Nelchina basin, attended Thursday's hearing. He said he has not been able to harvest a moose for his family for the last four years. To compensate, he has boxes of beef, chicken and pork from Costco in Anchorage delivered by plane to his home in the Bush. That adds between $3,000 and $4,000 to his yearly food bill, he said.

Comments

The attitude of Alaskan officials is repugnent. It is arrogant and uninformed. Free ranging predators in the wild are no threat to anything but the demented belief of a state government that wants to run on the cheap that it can score some licensing revenues from the wolf hunt and the the moose hunt. Truly Alaskan state officials will be looked on as among the stupidest people to ever meddle in nature.

It's been proven that the moose population's biggest threat in Alaska are the numbers killed on Alaskan roadways and railroad tracks each year. Why not put the money they are spending on this HORRIBLE wolf kill towards making roadways and tracks safer for moose and humans with lights, fencing, signage, snow packs, etc?

I live in the Tok area of Alaska. My neighbor is a trapper and I have to look at frozen wolf corpses in his yard all winter. We had a fire last summer that wiped out almost 2 million acres north of us. So the wolves targeted here have lost their dens, hunting grounds and food. Yet we still have a "wolf problem"? If we are to "manage" anything it should be the speed on the highways and no longer sell out of state permits to hunters. I work at the local airport and see several moose left in the field or meat left behind by these people. So, wolves must die so some out of state hunter can have a neat rack!

I think it is very sad and pathetic, that it has to come to this, the natural checks and balances of nature are being disturbed and it will eventually effect the human population as well, just like it is in other parts of the world. Disease and biological disasters occur when you start messing with mother nature. This from my scientific mind, now from my spiritual mind..... my totem animal has guided me for many years. By taking these measures against your brother wolf and disturbing the way things happen in nature your are harming yourselfs more than you know. I pleade with you please ban together and stop this murder, you will only be saving yourselfs. Thank you. and remember, we are all god including the brother wolf.

I want to know what I can do help put a stop to such a senseless decicion as to kill all these wolves. Let the people know what would help to put a stop to this killing. It is hard to understand how these people can make such an unwise move after they are informed of all the facts. Is such a decision in the best interest for mankind and the earth?

Dear fellow friends of the animals: It is a disturbing realization of the fact we live in a plutocratic,pro corporate capitalist gov't. There only priorities lay in the interests of the financial elite,corrupt and powerful system of judges,lawyers,senators and congressmen.they have all betrayed the people of the usa/world. we all must continue gods work for truth,every effort is a seed of hope and love planted in this ignorant,hostile world. I admire and respect all of your efforts!!!

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