For Immediate Release
Nineteen Alaskan Wolves Already Killed This Season
JUNEAU, Alaska - The Alaska Department of
Fish and Game reports that as of today at least 19 wolves have been killed by
aerial hunters since the first wolf was shot on October 28, a number greater
than all the wolves killed in November last year. The reported kills have all
occurred in the Upper Yukon-Tanana predator control area.
“The season is off to a
disturbing start,” said Wade Willis, Alaska representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “For years,
the department has been setting wolf removal targets based on largely anecdotal
information and placing the balance of prey and predators in
The aerial gunning season opens
each year after Fish and Game officials complete an annual survey of moose
populations in predator control units.
Defenders has asked Fish and
Game for this year’s wolf target numbers, but has not received the information.
In the prior years, the Fish and Game has set goals to eliminate as many as 300
wolves in this area. Hundreds more are targeted in the other designated predator
For the past five winters, Fish
and Game has issued aerial hunting permits to private citizens for five control
areas. Aimed at reducing wolf and bear populations that compete with hunters for
moose and caribou, the purported goal of predator control is to benefit rural
subsistence hunters by attempting to keep big game populations high. Yet the
state conducts many of its predator control programs in regions where resident
subsistence hunters have to compete with out of state trophy hunters for big
Conservation groups, including
Defenders of Wildlife, contend that wolves are being used as the scapegoat for
low moose and caribou populations – pointing out that the Fish and Game is not
addressing other factors that are impacting the herd, such as climate change,
which could affect the area’s carrying capacity. In addition, basic scientific
standards are not being met, such as collecting accurate population surveys,
especially for predators and even for the big game species.
According to the
Alaska chapter of The Wildlife Society, a local branch of
wildlife biologists, the problems facing the state’s predator control program
stem from Alaska’s 1994 Intensive Management Law.
In a policy statement, The
Wildlife Society criticized the law for placing too great an emphasis on
predator control, stating that the legislation behind today’s predator control
programs is “counterproductive to sound wildlife management…will result in
needless and undesirable deterioration of Alaskan wildlife populations,
including both predator and prey species.”
“Aerial predator control
programs have been conducted for five years. It’s time for the department to
conduct an honest review of these programs,” Willis said. “Instead of using
science, the Board of Game is gambling with the long term health of
Alaska’s wildlife resources, basing its decisions on opinion
and anecdotal information.”
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