Control of wolves consumes board

Posted: Monday, March 06, 2000

FAIRBANKS - Wolf control dominated testimony at Alaska Game Board hearings here over the weekend, and it was expected to grab attention at a couple of committee hearings in Juneau today as well.

Joel Bennett, executive director of the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, told the game board on Sunday that there's something about shooting animals from airplanes that's distasteful to the public.

``That may be where most of your resistance is coming from,'' said Bennett, referring to Gov. Tony Knowles' refusal to allow wolf control programs already approved by the game board around McGrath and in the Nelchina Basin.

Those in favor of killing wolves to boost struggling moose and caribou populations argued that it was the state's responsibility to manage Alaska's wildlife resources for hunters and trappers, and not tourists.

``I've been in Alaska 59 years and I have yet to find a tourist who has come up to me and asked where they can see a wolf,'' said Tok hunter and trapper Glenn DeSpain.

The wolf control debate was also expected to dominate a joint House and Senate Resources Committee meeting in Juneau today, where Knowles' appointment of a wildlife photographer to the game board was predicted to draw fire.

Knowles' appointment, Leo Keeler, is a vocal proponent of a buffer zone around Denali National Park and Preserve to protect wolves who venture outside the park's boundaries from hunting and trapping.

Ousted from the seven-member panel to make room for Keeler was Bob Churchill, a supporter of killing wolves to increase the number of moose and caribou for human hunters.

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