ANCHORAGE - The state is far from meeting its goal in its aerial wolf-kill program that ended April 30.
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In the effort, 175 wolves were reported killed, a fraction of up to 664 animals targeted by wildlife managers. Total numbers could rise because trappers and hunters have until May 30 to report kills, but officials don't expect a big increase.
Thin snow in many areas made tracking wolves difficult and high fuel prices kept some pilots and aerial gunners grounded.
"It's a big deal," said Cliff Judkins, chairman of the Alaska Board of Game. "We ought to increase the (killing) methods to meet our goals, and we keep playing around when we need to get the job done."
But advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife contends the low numbers are due to a lack of wolves. Conservation groups say the state has overestimated wolf numbers and so many have been killed in past years that they're more difficult to find.
The game board launched the predator-control effort five years ago to boost moose populations. The program is run in five areas of the state. This winter, the goal was met in one area.
The program accounts for a fraction of the total annual kill of about 1,000 wolves in state. Alaska trappers take most of the animals for the hides.
Conservation groups and others have protested against the predator-control program because state-issued permits allow private gunners to shoot wolves from planes.
To accelerate the number of kills this year, the state Department of Fish and Game decided to offer a $150 bounty for the left front leg of every dead wolf. Advocacy groups sued and a state Superior Court judge ordered the bounty stopped before a payment had been made, saying the department lacked the authority to offer a bounty.
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