Judge Rejects Alaska's Plan in Wolf-Kill Program
June 3, 2010A federal judge on Thursday rejected the state of Alaska's request to immediately kill seven wolves in a national wildlife refuge on Unimak Island.
The state wants to remove the wolves from caribou calving grounds and boost numbers on the Aleutian chain island.
However, Judge H. Russel Holland refused Alaska's request for a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Instead, the judge set a hearing Monday and said the court would consider the merits of a preliminary injunction.
The state said in court papers that Monday was the latest it could wait to proceed with its plan to remove the wolves.
"There is an urgency," state attorney Kevin Saxby said after Thursday's hearing in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.
The federal wildlife agency has said it wants more time to consider the state's plan for aerial predator control within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
It has threatened legal action if state employees enter the refuge in helicopters to shoot wolves.
Caribou are an important subsistence food for about 62 people living on the eastern-most island in the Aleutian chain, but caribou numbers have been declining.
In 2002, there were more than 1,200 of the animals. State biologist now estimate there are about 400 caribou on the island. The state has an unofficial estimate of up to 30 wolves.
Two weeks ago, the state announced it would conduct aerial shooting of wolves as early as June 1, using two biologists and four pilots.
The federal agency, however, said the plan would require a special use permit and perhaps a more time-consuming review to assess the environmental impact of the wolf-killing mission.
Failure to follow the procedures could be considered trespassing, the agency said.
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