Alaska Expands Plans to Kill Wolves

While Priscilla Feral and Friends of Animals were busy trying to organize protests against plans by Alaska to kill 140 wolves in the McGrath area using aerial hunting, the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game was busy expanding its wolf control program. In January it began taking permit applications to kill about 30 wolves in the Nelchina basin.

As with the McGrath plan, the goal of the wolf control program in Nelchina is to reduce the wolf population in order to increase the size of the moose population for hunters.

The Nelchina basin had a land-and-shoot program until 1995, and since that program ended the wolf population in the area has more than doubled according to the Department of Fish and Game. This has resulted in the moose population in the region declining by more than half (the wolves are apparently extremely efficient at killing moose calves).

As far as McGrath, so far weather conditions have meant that no wolves have been killed yet, but the Department of Fish and Game expects that to change in February and March.


Alaska takes applications for new wolf control program. Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, January 7, 2004.

Friends of Animals Organizes "Howl-Ins" to Protest Aerial Shooting of Wolves in Alaska

In December, Friends of Animals organized 32 protests across the United States to object to a decision by Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski to allow the aerial shooting of wolves by wildlife control officials in that state.

In order to reduce the population of wolves, which Alaskan officials claim are preying on moose in the McGrath area, Alaska plans to kill about 40 wolves from aircraft over the next 2-3 years.

In response, Friends of Animals is trying to organize a nationwide tourism boycott of Alaska. From Dec. 27-28 it held 32 “Howl-Ins” in various cities to get its message across.

According to the Associated Press, for example, in New York Friends of Animals workers carried placards reading,

Alaska is planning a heart-stopping wildlife spectacle,” the placard read. “They call it ‘management.’ We call it murder.

The group also handed out postcards to send to Alaskan government officials asking them to stop the planned hunt as well as pamphlets urging a tourist boycott of Alaska.

Alaskan officials say they have received about 15,000 e-mails and 1,000 letters protesting the hunt, but that the scale of the protests so far don’t match a similar protest against a wolf hunt in 1992 when state officials received more than 100,000 letters and phone calls opposing a wolf hunt. That protest forced then-Gov. Walter J. Hickel to call a wolf summit that eventually rescinded plans for the hunt.

Murkowski told the Associated Press that the wolf hunt is the right thing to do and that he won’t be swayed by the protests,

We think we addressed this in a responsible manner. We have a state to manage and game populations to manage, and we’re not going to do it on emotion.

The 1992 campaign, by the way, featured some familiar tactics according to the Associated Press,

State officials recall receiving death threats in 1992, and employees were trained to detect mail that could contain explosives. At one point Alaska State Troopers had to provide security at the state Department of Fish and Game.


Wolf-kill foes stage protests across country. The Associated Press, December 29, 2003.

Friends of Animals Launches “Howl-Ins” for the Wolves of Alaska. Press Release, Friends of Animals, December 19, 2003.

Alaskan Governor Signs Wolf Cull Bill

Apparently willing to risk the promised boycott from Friends of Animals, Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski signed a bill in June that will allow private citizens to hunt wolves from airplanes.

The law also alters the rules that determine when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game can order a culling of the wolf population. Under the old rules, it could only do so if it found that there was a decline in the population of animals that wolves prey on. Under the new rules, the department can order a cull of wolves when their numbers grow regardless of the impact such growth is having on prey species.

The Department of Fish and Game will likely use the aerial hunts to thin the population of wolves near McGrath, where residents would like to see the moose population expand to provide more hunting and economic opportunities. The department already has a project underway to capture and remove bears from around McGrath.

Friends of Animals, meanwhile, apparently believes there are constitutional issues with the law and are holding off on calling for a boycott hoping that those issues will render the law moot,

FOA believes that there are legal problems with the new statute. Among other things, it appears that this statute violates the Alaska Constitution’s separation of powers rule by invading the legal authority of the Governor and the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. We brought this problem to the attention of the Alaska Attorney General, and we expect that it be addressed before anyone tries to take any action under the statute. Aside from that constitutional infirmity, there are also some serious legal, administrative and fiscal impediments to implementation of the statute. FOA anticipates litigation if the Game Board tries to use this new statute to initiate wolf-killing. If wolf control is implemented, Friends of Animals will call for a tourism boycott of Alaska during the months of November 2003 through January 2004 — when tourists book summer visits to Alaska with tourist agencies. — Priscilla Feral


Murkowski signs aerial wolf control bill. Associated Press, June 19, 2003.

Alaska Supreme Court Turns Back Friend of Animals Appeal

In what will likely be the last legal maneuver in a case that started in 1997, The Fairbanks News-Daily Miner reports that the Alaska Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Friends of Animals over a $200,000 judgment won by wolf trapper Eugene Johnson against the animal rights group.

In 1997, Johnson sued Friends of Animals and wildlife biologist Gordon Haber over the release of a wolf from a trap owed by Johnson. Haber released the wolf — which was found dead about three weeks later with wire from the trap still in its feet — while he was in Alaska doing research funded by Friends of Animals. Haber later distributed a videotape of the wolf’s release, and Johnson sued both Haber and Friends of Animals.

A jury found in Johnson’s favor and awarded him damages of $100,000 from Friends of Animals and $79,000 from Haber.

Friends of Animals appealed the verdict arguing that Haber was not acting as an agent of Friends of Animals when he released the wolf. An Alaska Superior Court judge rejected its first appeal in 2002, and the Alaska Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal is pretty much then end of the animal rights groups options. It could appeal to the United States Supreme Court, but as the Fairbanks Daily-News Miner noted, given that there are no federal issues involved such an appeal would certainly be rejected by the Supreme Court.

Johnson died in June 2002, but his estate will likely move to collect on the judgment. Due to another ruling in the case, Johnson’s estate will likely only be able to collect the judgment from the Friends of Animals which Johnson’s attorney said would amount to $120,000 once attorney fees and interest are included.


Court will not consider appeal by animal rights group. Dan Rice, Fairbanks Daily-News Miner, April 30, 2003.

Alaska Board of Game Approves Wolf Kill

In March, the Alaska Board of Game voted unanimously to approve a plan to kill wolves and move black bears in 520-square mile area in interior Alaska, in order to boost the moose population in the area. The proposal requires the additional approval of the state Fish and Game Department and Alaska’s governor, Frank Murkowski.

The plan also calls for a temporary moratorium on moose hunting in the McGrath area.

Friends of Animals’ Priscilla Feral has threatened a consumer boycott of Alaska if it approves the wolf kill. She was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that she was “horrified but not surprised” by the board’s decision.

In testimony before the Alaska Board of Game on March 6, Feral told the board,

If the Board of Game convinces Gov. Murkowski to approve this proposal, and appease the predator control minority, as opposed to most Alaskans and wildlife-watching tourists who denounce shot-gunning wolves from helicopters, FoA will initiate demonstrations and protests all over the country ? and internationally –matching every dollar you devote to killing wolves in launching an offensive.

Murkowski is himself a hunter who has said before that he is unafraid of a consumer boycott of his state and will almost certainly approve the plan.


Game Board backs predator control near McGrath. Associated Press, March 12, 2003.

Friends of Animals Threatens Alaska Boycott

The Friends of Animals is threatening a tourism boycott of Alaska if the Alaska Game Board follows through on a proposal to thin the wolf pouplation in order to boost the moose population.

At issue is a 520 square mile area near McGrath, Alaska (about 200 miles northest of Anchorage). According to biologists with the Alaska Fish and Game Department, the 490 moose inthe area produce 344 calves annually. By the time black bears, wolves, grizzly bears and human hunters have killed adult moose, the herd remains static in size.

The state would like to remove some predators in order to allow the moose population to increase so that hunters can kill 130-150 of the animals each year instead of the 98 or so that they harvest currently.

Friends of Animals’ Priscilla Feral promises a tourism boycott of Alaska if the state goes ahead with the predator removal.

“For every dollar you spend to kill a wolf,” Feral told the Alaska Game Board, “we will match in launching an offensive.”

Feral said that her group would take out advertisements in major newspapers urging tourists to avoid Alaska.


Alaska wolves plan prompts boycott. Dan Joling, Associated Press, March 8, 2003.