Attack on Wolves: Aerial Hunting

Editorial note: Opinions expressed in the articles in this e-zine do not necessarily reflect the opinions of all FN staff.

by NL Gervasio

Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, has made it known to the nation that she would like to see to the destruction of wolves in her state by placing a bounty on their heads of $150. Is this not an archaic and barbaric practice, the likes of which have not been seen in nearly 100 years? Of course, the bounty was rapidly thrown out by a state court. However, Alaska’s aerial gunning practices continue. Not only is this practice affecting Alaska, but wolves in other states such as Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana are also threatened.
In 1972, Congress passed the federal Airborne Hunting Act (AHA) to ban hunters from using airplanes to hunt wolves or other wildlife. This Act came about when a brutal scene was put on display depicting a wolf hunt, which began a national public outcry. Alaska, however, has found a loophole in the Act, and has made wide use of it. They feigned it as “wildlife management,” allowing hunters to take to the air time and again to engage in the ruthless slaughter of wolves and black and brown bears. Alaska’s voters have twice attempted to stop aerial hunting, but the Alaska Legislature has overturned their efforts each time. Aerial hunting is prohibited by Federal law, according to the AHA, but Alaska still continues to practice it for the purpose of falsely increasing particular game populations to bring in hunters from all regions of the nation. The targeted region covers 60,000 square miles of wolf population, plus 12,000 square miles of bear population.
Congress did not intend to have aerial hunting state-sanctioned to indulge game hunters with larger game populations, and 671 wolves have been slaughtered since 2003 due to Alaska’s program. If one were to take a look at the legislative history, he or she would find that Congress was attempting to halt this mode of practice on wildlife by introducing the AHA.
Aerial hunting is against the ethics of most hunters. Fair chase is a corner-stone concept amongst hunters, and hunting from the air is not believed to be fair-chase hunting. Aerial hunting gives an unfair advantage over the prey because it is not considered sportsmanlike; therefore, hunters who consider themselves ethical do not use it.
Scientific data falls short because the state does not adequately monitor declining predator populations. The American Society of Mammalogists (ASM) has voiced their concern regarding aerial hunting in Alaska, declaring the practice to be unsound and potentially damaging to the ecosystem. The ASM is one of the oldest and largest societies devoted to the study of mammals. If the predator population is destroyed, although the program is meant to boost the prey population, the prey populations will grow too large in number and become susceptible to disease and lack of food, and also weather changes, creating a dramatic decline in these prey populations. Regardless of this fact, the state’s Board of Game continues to call for aerial hunting to eradicate wolves from vast regions of the Alaskan wilderness.
Other states are taking Alaska’s cue and have declared plans to begin aerial hunting in order to get rid of wolves if the wolves are removed from the endangered species list; a very likely possibility. Some are even calling for aggressive techniques—aerial hunting, as well as hazing—which is in violation of the AHA. Idaho’s governor intends to destroy over 80 percent of the wolves in his state, which has already started to plan their efforts in wolf-eradication.
The only thing that can stop aerial hunting now is federal legislation, clarifying Congress’ purpose for the AHA. The Protect America’s Wildlife (PAW) Act is being proposed to Congress at this time. If this Act does not pass, Alaska’s legislature will persist in ignoring the objective of the AHA. This Act would seal the loophole in the AHA that legislation continues to exploit, and stop other states from exploiting it as well.
For the latest updates, visit Defenders of Wildlife at www.defenders.org/airborne_hunting.

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