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8 February 2004 Issue

First Wolves Die In Alaska Aerial Gunning

Defenders of Wildlife Decries First Airborne Wolf Shooting Since Late 1980s

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Defenders of Wildlife today expressed outrage over the confirmed killing of 14 [the count is now 30] wolves so far in Alaska's Nelchina Basin by airborne private hunters. These are the first wolves killed under Alaska's controversial new aerial gunning program, and the first since the state legislature overturned 1996 and 2000 statewide referendums that outlawed the practice.

"In statewide votes, Alaskans twice rejected aerial wolf gunning, and twice the state legislature decided that wealthy sport hunters are more important than Alaska voters," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. "Governor Murkowski is backing the extermination of wolves across an area the size of Texas, apparently with the goal of making it so easy to bag a moose that any thrill-seeker from the Lower-48 can do it. It gives a black eye to hunting traditions and values, and creates and image of Alaska that is anything but welcoming to non-hunters."

Twenty-eight pilots obtained permits on January 22nd to kill wolves in this area. No details are known at this point in regards to the number of hunters that actually killed wolves. Plans call for up to 140 wolves to be killed in this area by April 30th.

The objective of the program is to kill 80 percent of the wolves in an 8,000 square mile area through land-and-shoot hunting in an attempt to boost moose populations for hunters, despite the fact that insufficient data have been gathered on the number of wolves and moose in this area. Aerial gunners can kill males, females and even wolf pups as part of the program.

Unlike regular sport hunting, aerial gunning involves either shooting from aircraft, or land-and-shoot hunting in which shooters in aircraft chase wolves or other wildlife in deep snow until the animals are too exhausted to move, and then land nearby to make the kill.

"This aerial gunning program is designed to artificially boost game populations, simply for the convenience of thousands of sport hunters who descend on the Nelchina Basin every year," said Joel Bennett, a former member of the Alaska Board of Game and a spokesman for Defenders of Wildlife. "It's a triumph of raw politics over biology, and insults the voters of the whole state."

The citizens of Alaska have twice voted in statewide measures (1996 and 2000) to ban the aerial killing of wolves. Nonetheless, Governor Murkowski signed a bill last June overturning the most recent ban.

Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and wildlife habitat. With more than 450,000 members and supporters nationwide, Defenders is an effective leader on environmental issues. For timely information on environmental issues, visit www.defenders.org and subscribe to DENLines, a free e-mail alert newsletter.

Karen Deatherage
Alaska Program Associate
Defenders of Wildlife
308 G Street, #310
Anchorage, AK 99501
907-276-9453
907-276-9454 Fax
defenders@alaska.net 

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