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Alaska's plan for aerial wolf hunt rejected by judge

June 14, 2010 |  2:02 pm

Wolf

Alaska's request for a preliminary injunction -- which would have allowed the state to immediately proceed with a plan to hunt seven wolves by air on a federal wildlife refuge on Unimak Island, the largest in the Aleutian Islands chain -- was denied by a district court judge last week.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has argued that killing the wolves, which it blames for the decline of the island's caribou population, is necessary both for the long-term survival of the caribou herd and for the safety of a small number of Alaska Native residents who live there.

There is some disagreement between state and federal wildlife officials over how many caribou actually remain on Unimak, but both agree that the numbers have declined substantially in recent years. An estimated 1,200 caribou were counted in a 2002 census; Alaska biologists estimate only 250 remain, while federal officials believe there are as many as 400.

Both sides agree that action must be taken, but U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland sided with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ruling that the agency is allowed by law to complete studies to determine the cause of the caribou population's decline and the best course of action to take regarding the wolves.

Learn more about the decision in Times reporter Kim Murphy's story.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A gray wolf in the Alaska wilderness. Credit: Associated Press

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