Alaskans for Wildlife (AFW), a resident group of scientists, sportsmen, Native communities and recreation-enthusiasts have successfully gained enough signatures to place a measure on the 2008 ballot to stop the practice referred to as "same-day shooting" of wolves and bears. "We are confident that our efforts will pay off. This ballot initiative will allow Alaskans to once again stop private hunters from using aircraft to shoot wolves across large areas of the state in the absence of a biological emergency or sound scientific data," states Joel Bennett, president of AFW. The measure was also placed on the 1996 and 2000 ballots, both of which were voted for by the state and later turned over by the state legislature. Over 57,000 signatures have been collected, which is much higher than the 31, 451 required signatures.

Same-day airborne shooting, also called "land and shoot" is a technique currently used by Alaska-permitted residents to shoot wolves and grizzly bears in areas where the state feels there are too many predators. Using this method, a person can use an aircraft to spot a wolf or bear, then land and shoot the animal immediately. This method of predator control has long been seen as unethical by many groups, including sportsmen groups within the state of Alaska. The program was reinstated by Governor Frank Murkowski in 2003 even though the state voted to ban the practice in 1996.

Similar predator-control programs are being designed elsewhere. In British Columbia, Canada, government report released on 24 October 2006 suggested the use of predator control to increase the diminishing mountain caribou herds throughout the province. Although the decline has been linked to reduced food availability, some government officials want to instate a predator control program targeted at wolves, cougars and black bears, as well as prey species that "attract" the predators, such as elk and deer. "They're blaming the predators when the real culprits in this thing are the extractive resource users," reports a biologist with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, a regional environmental organization. The report will be available for public comment.

Scientists have historically criticized the practice and methods of predator control The American Society of Mammalogists (ASM) sent resolutions to the state of Alaska in both 2005 and 2006 denouncing the lack of rigorous scientific study in the use of aerial gunning for predators in Alaska. A June 2006 statement issued by ASM expressed scientists' concerns over Alaska's predator control programs. "We further recommend that assessment of predator control be conducted with approaches of sufficient scope, duration, and spatial scale to implement adaptive-management practices that will ensure the conservation of the Alaskan ecosystem and its unique mammalian fauna."

 


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