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Judge finds game board failed to follow rules on wolf control

January 17, 2006 | Wolves
By MARY PEMBERTON, Associated Press Writer

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaska's lethal wolf control program under which hundreds of wolves have been killed is illegal, a judge ruled Tuesday in a victory for a Connecticut-based animal rights group.

In a case going back to November 2003, Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that the state failed to follow its own regulation when authorizing the aerial wolf control program, where pilot and gunner teams were allowed to shoot the wolves from the air.

Given the judge's ruling, the program has been suspended, Matt Robus, director of the state Division of Wildlife Conservation, said soon after the judge issued her ruling. People with permits to kill wolves in the five areas of the state where the program is under way were being notified, he said.

"Meanwhile, our attorney is still analyzing what the judge had to say. Based on what we hear from him we will decide if there are technical things can be addressed or whether it is bigger than that," Robus said.

Gleason, who went over more than 2,000 pages of documents offered by the state, found that the Alaska Board of Game did not follow some or all of the state regulations when authorizing the program in the five areas.

The court found "that the Board of Game failed to adhere to its own regulation regarding the control of predation by wolves when it adopted these aerial control plans," Gleason said in her 32-page ruling.

More precisely, the state failed to provide required justification for the program, including previous measures that failed to work, Gleason said. The game board also failed to explain why alternative means for reducing the number of wolves would not work, the judge said.

"The Board is bound by its regulations," Gleason said. "A review of the enabling regulations for aerial wolf control programs ... indicates that the Board failed to adequately address some or all of these regulatory requirements in each of the applicable GMU (game management units) in which it has authorized wolf control."

The ruling was a long-awaited victory for Friends of Animals, a Darien, Conn.-based animal rights group that led the fight against the wolf-killing program and previously had failed to get the judge to issue an emergency injunction to stop it.

"She has ruled that the wolf control program is invalid and all the underlying regulations are invalid," said Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral, who added she was "tremendously gratified with Judge Gleason's ruling."

"It (the law) requires that they have data and present the data and establish the facts that are required in those regulations. They can't just make stuff up," said the plaintiffs' lawyer, James Reeves of Anchorage.

Robus said it was too early to tell if the program can be salvaged.

"I'm not sure what the procedure is to fix it is. I think ... we need to evaluate what Judge Gleason had to say and what action to take."

The program is aimed at boosting the number of moose and caribou in areas where residents say wolves are killing too many, leaving them with too few for food. State biologists estimate that Alaska has 7,000 to 11,000 wolves. Robus has said there are some early indications that the program is working.

Since the program began in 2003, more than 400 wolves have been killed. The state set a goal of another 400 this winter. The state issued more than 100 new permits last month.

Comments

Alaska's image is so bad, over such things as aerial hunting of Wolves, that the governor is beginning a mult-million dollar campaign to better the image. Last year they also allowed bear-baiting to kill Grizzly Bears to boost the Moose population. Alaska's political leaders are in bed with bush and the oil industry. Last week the interior department opened up oil drilling in an area that was off-limits to even James Watt under Reagan!! Alaska's motto is "Kill it or drill it". We should not interfere with killing predators so there are more game animals for us to kill. May those Wolves lost through this barbaric practice rest in peace. Thank you Friends of Animals.

How interesting to note some so-called "natives" of Alaska would tell we lower-forty-eighters to mind our own business, as though institutionalized bloodlust leading to the systematic destruction of decades-old lineage among the living treasures of America's precious little frontier country is not our problem. Of course, it is precisely this form of ignorance - of the importance of interspecies and ecological balance, among other things - that intensifies the ongoing need for activism. When we advocate animal causes, WE ARE MINDING OUR OWN BUSINESS. PS - Ethan, if you don't like the way we United States govern, you can always jump the border so you don't have to obey our laws.

If you are so concerned about wolves you come and live among them. They are merciless killers. They just eat the vital organs and leave the rest for scavengers. We are then not able to harvest their kills because we don't know how long it has been out! It is like a slap in the face to me to hear about the wanton killing of my subsistence foods. I have not had fresh moose meat for over 2 years. Thanks alot for all of your hard work on something you don't really understand.

I am glad the Courts finally claimed that wolf control in Alaska was not supported by the facts or a valid public process. There will likely be some comments posted from Alaska saying FOA and others do not know what they are talking about when it comes to Alaska's wolves. However, as an Alaskan who served on Governor Knowles McGrath Adaptive Management Team to study the wolf/moose problem at McGrath, I can say most Alaskan's don't know much about the wolf problem. Few Alaskan's know that at McGrath it was calculated that a moose herd of about 3,000 animals should meet the needs of rural residents. Our studies showed there were about 2,400 moose, but the problem was the bull cow ratio was as low as 6 bulls per 100 cows when it should have been 35 per 100. Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game even stated that over hunting was a major problem in the area. So it is politics is the real problem in wildlife management in Alaska. Governor Knowles required predator control to be scientifically justified, economically feasible and supported by the public. New Governor Murkowski only asked that hunters support control, and he nominated a Board of Game of extremist hunters that rapidly approved wolf control, even when Fish and Game said it was not supported. All they required is that local residents say they are having problems. It does not matter if the problem is their neighbor or someone from Anchorage finding the moose first. Maybe now they will have to get enough *REAL* science and non-hunter support before they attempt to restart wolf control. To see the studies, go to www.alaskawolfkill.com

I am involved with the Mexican Gray Wolf reintroduction program in Arizona and New Mexico. I know a little about Wolves. Notice the word "reintroduction" ... they were here before the ranchers and government killed all but a handful of them. Wolves are vital in the biological diversity of the environment. Man comes in and messes it all up.

Colleen's mythology about wolves is recited over and over again by wolf-haters. It's not a few thousand wolves in a state as vast as Alaska that pose a problem. It's the stubborness of 14 percent of Alaska's residents, who hold hunting licenses, and find it sporting to shoot wolves and bears from aircraft. They feel entitled to participate in persecution campaigns, and call it freedom, or some such thing. The Superior Court in Anchorage ruled yesterday that Alaska's wolf control program was illegal. Hunter-pilot teams are grounded, and Friends of Animals' tourism boycott is thereby officially cancelled. As Tom Blue Wolf of Earthkeepers in Talking Rock, Georgia stated almost two years ago after Alaska deployed an air force to hunt animals: "Wolves are the epitome of the wild spirit. Many believe that the true test of America's sincerity about protecting the environment will revolve around whether or not the wolves remain protected and free." To all our friends and members, thank you so very much for sending us your messages of congratulations. Priscilla Feral Friends of Animals

Thank you! Very Pleased. Congratulations! Very good news. FINALLY!

You Idiots should stay in your own backyard. If you would come stay with me in Texas I will show you Damage done by both man And Animal that you know nothing about. Put your efforts in HELPING YOUR FELLOW MAN. BERNARD V. PACHECO (Muleskinner)

first i would like to say, go wolves,you rule again,and to all those e mails telling the lower 48s to mind there own business. we would if you didn't do such stupid acts.you need poeole like us to teach you how the civilized person lives. but don't worry if it happens again, we will be back in larger numbers and with more law lawyers to teach you the law of the united states.

Its about time... :) There is finally a Judge in Alaska, for Alaska Wolves.... :) I hope this sends a message to everyone across the United States, that the wolf has a right to live. Longe live the Wolves... :)

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