From: Jeannette J. Lee, Associated Press
Published January 30, 2006 12:00 AM

Alaska Revives Aerial Wolf Control Program

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The state reinstated a population control program Thursday that allows shooting wolves from the air -- more than a week after a judge ruled it was illegal.

The program was reinstated after the Board of Game filed new regulations passed in response to Superior Court judge Sharon Gleason's concerns.

"They are effective immediately," said Annette Kreitzer, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Loren Leman.

Gleason ruled last week that the board violated its own standards for expanding the program, in part because it did not provide justification for it or explain why alternatives such as sterilization or habitat destruction would not work.

The program, intended to boost moose and caribou populations in five areas of the state, got its start in 2003 in an area of Alaska's Interior where residents had long complained predators were killing too many moose, leaving too few for food.

In an emergency meeting Wednesday, the board scrapped its existing regulations and created new ones that list alternatives it considers unfeasible, primarily because they are expensive. The board will seek to make the new rules permanent at a regular public meeting in March.

Animal rights groups fighting to shut down the program may return to court to argue that the process of rewriting the rules was illegal.

"We do not regard it as an emergency when an agency needs to adopt regulations to fix a problem of its own making," said Jim Reeves, the lawyer representing Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals and seven Alaska plaintiffs.

About 400 wolves have been killed so far under the program, which permits pilot and gunner teams to shoot the wolves from the air. The state intends to kill another 400 wolves this year.

Alaska is home to the largest remaining population of gray wolves in the country. State biologists estimate about 7,000 to 11,000 wolves roam the state.

Source: Associated Press

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