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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

Yippi! I'll keep praying for more changes like this to happen, animals were here first.

I find it darkly amusing that so many of the posters display an abysmal level of emotional hysteria, ignorance, and absence of logic. Dino, for example, refers to wolves as "nearly extinct". In Alaska, they are not "nearly extinct", nor "endangered" nor even "threatened". They can best be described as "thriving" -- even "over-abundant" in many areas -- including the Anchorage Bowl, and Fairbanks, Municipality, the two largest cities, where they make a regular habit of dining on pets, chained and otherwise. This ain't Kansas, anymore, Toto! We LIVE with Nature here, not just Disney it. The pet eating is not due to a lack of "natural' prey, but because wolves are opportunists. Can't blame them -- we all are... But my own dogs -- especially the Dachshund -- get right paranoid when wolves come through my yard... Pee on the porch, they do- or even in the house if they can get away with it... The dogs - not the wolves. Gotta draw a line somewhere... There is no "Balance of Nature". It is always in flux, and often swings to extremes. Is it not better to exercise a modicum of control to dampen these extremes through "Wildlife Management" -- meaning in the majority, "People Management" as best we can? (true, we aren't perfect at it, but as the only sentient species involved, do we dare do nothing???) Besides, we're the only ones that can read the regulations -- so hunters are always the first to be restricted, controlled, managed, even banned from participation in a natural function... Many posters here appear to feel we are somehow "outside of Nature"- looking in. We should only be observers, not participants. Well, we ARE part of Nature, like it or not. We (some of us anyway) are predators (the rest of you are leaches). In fact, we predators pay the lion's share of footing the bill for conservation -- why not? -- it is purely in selfish self interest! We want animals to hunt for ourselves and for generations to come. And if there is a harvestable margin for humans, the prey species is healthy, which means the wild predators have a prey base as well. We aren't greedy -- we share -- but we aren't willing to give it ALL to the wild predators, except in marginal situations. That, unfortunately, seems to be the base line for the "lupus uber alles" crowd- they want everywhere to be "marginal" -- with no room for human predation. In Alaska, 90% of the ungulate mortality ( the majority is newly born babies) is by bears and wolves, 7% ( adult animals) by hunters, and 3% by disease, accident, and "unknown". Kinda cold to realize we have this reduced to hard statistics for the wild-eyed posy freaks, ain't it? My favorite quote is fronm Wally Hickle -- at the time, Governor of Alaska -- "We can't just let Nature run Wild!" Funny as it is, it is also true. We are a part of Nature- the only sentient part- and as such we have a responsibility to manage what we can. We are too far gone, and too numerous, not to. This includes managing wild predator numbers, as well as prey species. Some posters appear to believe their own rote slogans about 'sport' huntng, but they are obviously totally ignorant of the reality. The truth is, a 'sport' hunter ' is generally the best friend any species (including his predatory competitors) can have. The vast majority of us believe in fair chase and clean kills, abiding by regulations, appreciate the value of wild predators (within limits) and so on. A 'subsistence' hunter on the other hand, kills to eat -- anyway he can and as much as he can, and since his geographic location generally allows it without oversight to the written law-he gets away with it -- tho most of them do make an effort to dabide by the law. Yet these same non-conservationists are the very ones granted dispensation by liberals, greenies, and eco-freaks. Some facts: Wolves are the most prolific of any large predator in the world. Reduced by 80% they will rebuild their population in 3 to 5 years (and no one wants to totally eliminate them) To get a prey population out of a "predator pit" ( where predation is keeping prey populations well below carrying capacity, with little or declining growth)a 3 to 5 year wolf reduction program is necessary, (perhaps with an accompanying program for bears, which prey heavily on newborns) to advance the replacement/adult population ahead of the predation rate. Wolves are opportunists. Faced with a sub-optimal large game population, they readily suppliment their diet with fish, beaver, hares, squirrels, and anything else they can catch. When they finally eat themselves into a starvation crash, they leave a virtual desert behind, which takes years to rebuild- unfortunately, they can maintain the low-level subsistence lifestyle for decades before starving themselves. Makes it rough on humans who live and/or depend or wish to hunt large game in the same area. [Blog editors' note: Coming to this blog to opine about "liberals, greenies, and eco-freaks" is a highly deletable thing to do. Nevertheless, this is posted for purposes of displaying a good example of a condescensing lecture from one who claims to know everything one needs to know about nature by virtue of having subdued it at every opportunity. Where does one begin here? When folks move into Alaska with a Dachshund and other domestic dogs, it's obvious who is the awkard intruder (for whom some degree of humility would be most appropriate), and who has good standing as a member of the natural world. To see a writer gloss over the habit of chaining dogs in such a situation is disturbing, and one should be aware that one who brings or breeds any domestic animals in Alaska does so with a risk to such animals. One need not be an Alaska resident, or memorize "facts" to understand this, for it's the same principle that suggests one ought to be aware of the risk when bringing their pets into bear country in New Jersey. The idea that nature has to be controlled, yet we don't have to control ourselves because we're just too far gone is what's darkly amusing.]

amanda are you suggesting 'The REAL problem is too many people, overdevelopment, and gross exploitation of resources.' pertains to Alaska? if so, you need to do a little homework about alaska. and please go to the article titled 'drilling stripped from defense spending bill' posted december 21, 2005 to this site and explain to me how drilling in ANWR is just going to make it worse. jimmy allen

This Alaskan is for Wolf victory. I'm an Alaskan who is sick and tired of the animal abuse that prevails throughout this state. I'm hoping that aerial shooting of wolves (and other animals) will be permanently blocked.

I believe that ALL animals should be able to live a life of freedom, and not have to look over their shoulders for predators, mainly humans that abuse them, or kill them for a trophy. The animals were here before us, and as soon as humans show up, they take the animals homes and destroy them, and when the animal comes to people for food or shelter, people complain that they should be in the wild. Well, if people would stop destroying their habitat, then maybe the animal wouldn't need to try and defend itself. ALL animals are God's creatures, and when you kill one, you've destroyed what God has created. We can live with animals, but once a human abuses an animal, or uses them for entertainment like the poor bears in India, or the poor elephents that struggle to move such heavy loads, then something has to be done about it. The laws here in our country are too lenient, and a slap on the wrist is not enough, when an innocent animal has been abused, neglected, and left to die. If the courts made the law very strict, and the punishment even more strict, then you would see animal abuse stop. Every animal has a purpose in life, whether it be from the smallest insect to the largert species, and we should all be able to live together. I love animals, and I hate people that wear fur, as they don't know how horrific the slaughter of an animal is, and if they did, perhaps they wouldn't wear the real thing, since there are so many faux furs today, that look just as good as the real fur. I could write a book about the many horrible thngs that an animal has to go through, but I would just be too depressed thinking about it, so I'll close just saying that, if everyone cared enough, and volunteered to help animals, then many of our birds, and animals wouldn't be extinct, as so many of our wildlife has been destroyed, and we'll never see many of the animals that use to be here. So everyone should do their part in keeping this planet alive with our feathered friends, or our furry friends. Thank you for letting me express my most inner feelings about animals. Marianne

I agree with you Marianne more than 100 percent. I saw two hunters across the way from me on private property dragging a baby deer that they killed. What is worse, I"m sure they use the peoples property to go into the nature Preserve where the deer call home. What kind of people can kill an innocent baby deer. Animal haters. Hunters are animal haters and they love to kill. We need better laws to protect all animals. Its the people and the hunters who keep chasing the deer etc out of their habitat and its the people who keep cutting down trees to build. I use to live in the "country" but it has gotten so built up there is no more land around me its sickening. Don't blame the animals for running into cars or for anything else. Its the humans that are causing it. Stop the hunting, Stop the building. Let the animals live free and stop taking away their homes and their land. ITS THEIR WORLD TO! All this useless killing has to stop!

Finally!! A court with intelligence and a bigger heart! Let's keep the pressure on those cowards, though!

To Blog Editor, Your response to Larry is an obvious indicatioin of how your organization can take at statement and twist it to your own liking. Larry didn't say "nature has to be controlled, yet we don't have to control ourselves because we?re just too far gone". What he said is that as humans and part of nature we have to manage ourselves because we are to far gone and too numerous not to and that this also includes managing the prey and predator populations. Seems like simple English to me. This would also suggest we as humans are on a higher level of intellectual ability than our animal friends but by the postings of some of your supports that fact could be arguable.

To those of you Alaskans who keep demanding that we non-Alaskans mind our own business: What happens to Alaska's wolves is the business of all Americans. About 80 percent of the land in Alaska is federal. That means OURS, not just yours. We have a vested interest in ensuring the proper management (I hate that term) of wildlife on our federal lands. If the government of Alaska fails to take proper care of the wildlife that inhabits Alaska, the federal government should step in (e.g., by enforcing the Airborne Hunting Act). If the feds fail to do so, then we concerned American citizens must take action. Additionally, Alaska just happens to be home to the last remaining substantial population of gray wolves in the United States. As such, the wolf population of Alaska comprises a national, if not international, treasure. If the programs of state or regional wildlife stewards threaten the existence of these treasures, then those of us who are concerned about preserving such animal populations and the still-complete wild ecosystems in which they exist, should and will take action. In this case, consider that, when combined, Alaska's regular seasonal "take" of wolves by trappers and other on-the-ground hunters, and the wolves slaughtered in aircraft-assisted eradication campaign, would result, scientists estimate, in a 33 percent reduction in Alaska's wolf population. Steps obviously must be taken to prevent such a tragic loss from occurring. Thank you Friends of Animals, and your hard-working attorney in Anchorage, for working so hard to help preserve our wolves. P.S. To the person who complained that wolves take only a smallish portion of a kill and leave the rest "for scavengers," that's part of what keeps an ecosystem healthy. Wolf kills help support and keep viable populations of bears, eagles, foxes, coyotes, etc. Furthermore, wolves generally return to kills to feed on them again and again. Check out the research coming out of Yellowstone and other areas, such as Denali. And please learn from the past mistakes of the Lower 48 -- do not try to eliminate any of the top predator species from any ecosystem in Alaska.

Geez, why do people still want to kill wolves? I thought that old varmint mythology was shot down years ago. My uncle said the caribou around his island home in Lake Susitna were as prevalent as rats. How many caribou does a resident need to have enough to eat? The ecology guys are in a sweat about the pipeline and any new exploration for oil. Now sand oil is going to be an issue, and they disrupt the normal state of things by shooting wolves FROM THE AIR. That is illegal for any other game that I know of. Ah, corruption runs close to stupidity/ignorance. Stay tuned for other nonsense! Herb

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