Alaska's aerial wolf hunting program under attack in Congress
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. George Miller, both California Democrats, have introduced a bill in Congress that, if passed, will all but ban the aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska.
Alaska officials would have to declare a biological emergency showing the imminent collapse of a species before the wolf hunts can take place, and could only allow such hunting to be conducted by state or federal wildlife employees, barring private contractors.
"Shooting wolves from airplanes is not sport -- it is cruel and inhumane," Feinstein said in a written statement to the Anchorage Daily News. "It undermines the hunting principle of a fair chase and often leads to a slow and painful death for the hunted animals. This practice should be banned."
The legislation would close a loophole in the 1972 Airborne Hunting Act (which bans most aerial hunting in the U.S.) that allows Alaska to issue permits for such hunting of wolves on non-federal lands.
"What this bill does is essentially makes it impossible for Alaska to manage wolf populations in any sort of responsible way," said Pat Valkenburg, Alaska Department of Fish and Game deputy commissioner. "We finally have a program that works and to end it because of the emotional feelings of uninformed people is just not a good idea."
The subject of Alaska's aerial hunting really came to light during the presidential election campaign, when Gov. Sarah Palin was on the Republican ticket.
As previously written about in Outposts, the hunts are conducted as a means of predator control in an effort to help dwindling caribou and moose populations recover. These animals are key food sources for many Alaska resident hunters.
The wolves are "intensively managed" in six zones where moose and caribou populations are deemed dangerously low.
-- Kelly Burgess
Photo: Wolves at Yellowstone National Park. Credit: Associated Press / Daniel Stahler / National Park Service