Alaska Park Service officials are alarmed by the ongoing helicopter wolf hunts which the Fish and Game Department and Sarah Palin feel are necessary to thin the wolf population and thus increase the caribou and moose herds. During the spring wolves prey on the calves, and last year the okay was given to hunt and kill wolves from helicopters rather than fixed wing aircraft. The 2007 proposed payment of $150 per foreleg was overturned by an Alaska state judge which ruled it a "bounty" and thus illegal.
Using the helicopter program, plus private fixed-wing pilots, hunters and trappers, the state’s goal is to kill all but about 100 wolves in a region which has 400 of the animals adjasent to a federal wildlife preserve. Some wolves travel between state land and the neighboring, 2.5-million-acre national preserve, where members of wolf packs have been fitted with tracking collars. Fish and Game says they will not shoot wolves with tracking collars, however they can and will shoot wolves traveling with the collared wolves.
In the past Alaska residents are opposed to the aerial hunting; in 1996 and 2000, voters rejected using aircraft to help track and kill wolves. The Legislature overturned the measures. A ballot measure passed by voters in August 2008 kept the aerial hunting by private hunters in place, though there was confusion about the wording:
Some who voted no on Measure 2 thought they were banning the practice, when in fact it took a yes vote to stop private hunters from gunning wolves and bears from the air.
Alaska’s Frost Lady had repeatedly discussed the importance of humans hunting caribou and moose as a source of fresh clean Alaska protein. But thinning a wolf population by 3/4 seems a bit extreme. Defenders of Wildlife spokesman Wade Willis said in an e-mail:
The Palin administration is showing complete disregard for the integrity of Alaska’s national parks, which are after all federal land. This is an extreme response to what has never been more than an arbitrary target with no scientific backing. There is no biological emergency to justify this kind of action.
The helicopter program will cost $100,000.