By Tim Mowry, published in Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on May 3, 2006

The high price of fuel is just one reason the number of wolves taken in the state’s aerial wolf-control program this winter was lower than expected, according to state wildlife officials.

While they still have two days to report wolves taken before the program ended on April 30, aerial gunners had reported taking 153 wolves in five areas of the state this winter as of Tuesday. State wildlife officials were aiming for a harvest of up to 400 wolves.

Bad weather, a court ruling that halted the entire program for a week in January and a closure in Game Management Unit 16B west of Anchorage during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race also conspired against aerial wolf hunters.

It didn’t help that hunters lost two prime weeks to suspensions in the program in Unit 16B. The program was shut down for a week in January as a result of a court ruling in a lawsuit by Connecticut-based animal rights group Friends of Animals and it was halted for another week in early March for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which runs through Unit 16B.

Friends of Animals, which has led the attack against the state’s predator control program, will keep up the fight, executive director Priscilla Feral said.

The group is considering another lawsuit depending on what the state Board of Game does in a special meeting May 12-14 in Anchorage. The Game Board will be taking up several proposals it tabled during a March meeting in Fairbanks that would expand or add areas to its current wolf-control program.

“We will continue to intervene,” Feral said.

Friends of Animals has been running ads in several major magazines, as well as the nation’s largest newspaper, USA Today, to bring attention to Alaska’s wolf-killing program, Feral said.

“If you shoot wolves to save moose and then you shoot the moose, you’re either out of your mind or in Alaska,” the ad says above a pack of wolves in a snowfield.

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