March 18th, 2009 by Alex Felsinger
Alaska abruptly resumed shooting wolves from helicopters this weekend in hopes that shooting the wolves will increase the population of caribou for hunters to kill. The state plans to kill up to 328 wolves, sparing under 100 in the Yukon area.
Not everyone in Alaska is gung-ho about the plan. The National Park Service has been collaring wolves for a two-decade-long study tracking predator-prey relationships, and now many of those wolves are bound to turn up dead.
“They [the state] have a mandate to provide for maximum sustained yield. They want to provide more moose and caribou for people to harvest,” said Greg Dudgeon of the park service. “Our mandate is to manage and provide for healthy populations of wildlife. So we don’t place the value of a wolf over a caribou, or a caribou over a moose.”
The state hopes to increase the caribou population from 40,000 to 100,000. Dudgeon said the goal is outrageous because the animals haven’t been that populous since the early 20th century.
Defenders of Wildlife, a wildlife conservation group that has vocally opposed aerial hunts, said they worry that the wolf population estimates are smaller than in reality, meaning it’s possible that only a couple dozen wolves could survive the cull.
“The Palin administration and the Board of Game are acting with complete disregard for scientific wildlife management,” said Wade Willis, Defenders of Wildlife’s Alaska representative. “It is unprecedented for such a wholesale slaughter to take place, especially when it is based on such shoddy science and when it includes wolves that have been collared by the National Park Service for scientific study.”
The wolf hunt rings similar to the sea lion cull currently underway in Washington and Oregon. The sea lions are being trapped and killed because they eat a small portion of endangered salmon and instead of cutting the commercial fishing salmon quota, the states decided to kill sea lions for the second year in a row.[Via LA Times] Photo Credit: dobak on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
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