ANCHORAGE - An Alaska wildlife management program in which wolves are shot from low-flying airplanes and black bears are baited and snared is helping to increase the numbers of moose and caribou, state wildlife officials say.
The program has long been the target of wildlife conservation groups that view it as state-sponsored slaughter. Last fall, one of those groups launched an ad criticizing then-Governor Sarah Palin for expanding the program.
State officials contend the program is aimed at helping rural Alaskans, who rely on hunting to survive and had said there wasn’t enough game to hunt and eat.
The program began under Palin’s predecessor, Governor Frank Murkowski. Private citizens are permitted to shoot wolves from the air or conduct land-and-shoot hunting of wolves in six rural areas of the state.
Since the program began in 2003, more than 1,000 wolves and hundreds of black bears have been killed in an effort to drive down the number of predators.
“I think there are some real success stories here,’’ Bruce Bartley, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said. The agency recently released its 2008-2009 predation management summary that indicates that moose and caribou numbers in six predator-control areas have increased.