Murkowski: State won't back off wolf program

Animal rights group organizes tourism boycott

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Gov. Frank Murkowski said Wednesday the state won't back away from its aerial wolf control program in McGrath, even if an animal rights group follows through on its promise to target the state with a tourism boycott.

Murkowski, a Republican, said the state has a responsibility, particularly to the people of McGrath, to press forward with the program.

"I think ultimately it will prove to be successful and we are going to pursue it in the manner we have initiated it," Murkowski told reporters. "We are not deviating from that."

The Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals said Tuesday it is making plans for "howl-ins" Dec. 27-28 in New York; San Francisco; Sacramento; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Lansing, Mich.

Priscilla Feral, president of the group, said Tuesday the response from wolf advocates to launch a protest targeting Alaska's $2 billion tourism business has been enthusiastic.

"They are saying Alaska's state-sponsored wolf shooting program is a national disgrace and an ethical outrage," she said.

Residents of McGrath have said for years that bears and wolves are eating too many moose calves, leaving them with too little meat for their tables.

In the fall, the Board of Game approved permits for pilot-and-hunter teams to kill about 40 wolves this winter in a 1,700-square-mile area near McGrath in Alaska's Interior. A bear relocation program was conducted in the spring.

The weather has prevented the start of the wolf-killing part of the program, which could have begun Saturday.

Murkowski said the state is taking a different approach to wolf control this time around. He said the decision to institute aerial wolf control was made by the game board and has withstood legal challenges. He emphasized that no state employees or state equipment were being used in the effort.

"We think it is a responsible approach," Murkowski said.

Alaska has a certain mystery to Outsiders who may not fully understand the predator control issue faced by the people of McGrath, the governor said.

"They envision this area up there where there is a reduction in the majesty of the wolves, but they never look at the majesty of the moose calf and the rights of that calf to reproduce," Murkowski said.

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