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Sarah Palin's support for aerial wolf killing may have merit

November 12, 2008 | 12:53 pm

Caribou roam the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge

During her bid to become vice president, Sarah Palin became a target among conservation groups for her support, as Alaska's governor, of the aerial killing of wolves in Alaska.

(To view the Defenders of Wildlife video advertisement, click here.)

Perhaps rightly so. The practice is cruel and not at all sporting. But the practice apparently is working. Experts, citing the removal of predators as a major factor, say more caribou in the Southern Alaska Peninsula herd are surviving.

Craig Medred, outdoors reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, in a story today, points out that surveys completed in October counted an average of 39 calves per 100 cows, compared to only one calf per 100 cows in 2006 and 2007.

The recent removal of 28 wolves from the region is largely credited.

The caribou herd had shrunk from nearly 5,000 at the start of the decade to about 600 last year, and the state would like to see it maintained at about 3,500. It requires a 20% or better calf survival rate just to keep from declining further.

Overall, under an aerial hunting program that began more than five years ago under Gov. Palin's predecessor, about 700 wolves have been killed, many by ordinary citizens.

And though the program may be working, it's hardly ideal. After biologists shot 14 wolves in three packs last spring, they discovered they'd left 14 pups without parents. Those pups were euthanized to spare them starvation.

Animal rights groups contended the pups should have been placed in zoos.

--Pete Thomas

Photo: Caribou roam the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge in this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service file photo