Aerial shooting of Alaskan wolves upheld

A gray wolf is show in the Alaska wilderness in this undated photo.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Interior Department has rejected a national wildlife group’s challenge of an Alaska wolf control program that allows hunting from airplanes.

Defenders of Wildlife said Thursday it received a letter from Interior Secretary Gale Norton’s office saying the aerial wolf control program is allowed under exceptions in a 1971 wildlife law.

The group is considering further legal action.

“The Airborne Hunting Act doesn’t let you mow down predators from the air just to radically reshape the entire wildlife profile of a whole area,” said Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen.

The federal law says states cannot issue permits for airborne hunting for the purpose of sport hunting but that exceptions are allowed for the protection of “land, water, wildlife, livestock, domestic animals, human life or crops.”

The Washington, D.C.-based group, in a petition filed in February, contends the intent of Alaska’s aerial wolf control program is to boost game populations for hunters.

The state says the program is designed to protect moose calves in the winter when they are most vulnerable to bears and wolves. It is under way near McGrath in the interior and near Glennallen in south-central Alaska.

As of Thursday, 20 wolves had been killed near McGrath and 120 near Glennallen — both below game board limits.

Another environmental group, Friends of Animals, has tried unsuccessfully to challenge the aerial wolf control program in state court. It filed an amended complaint last month contending the game board lacked “sound biological data” to approve the program.