Big Win for Wolves on Alaska Ballot Initiative

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(11/08/1996) - Voters in Alaska's 1996 elections decisively approved a ballot initiative barring the same-day airborne killing of wolves, giving wolves an overwhelming victory in one of the most longstanding wildlife controversies ever. By a margin of 57 percent in favor to only 43 percent opposed, Alaskans voted on November 5 to ban same-day airborne hunting of wolves, foxes, wolverines, and lynxes.

Ballot measure number 3 in Alaska was promoted by the Alaska-based Wolf Management Reform Coalition including both sportsmen and conservationists.

Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife, said that, "By voting for the wolf, the people of Alaska have made an historic choice in favor of sound conservation and fair hunting practices. This is a big victory for the wolf. Voters have finally curbed the unconscionable practices that have killed thousands of wolves in Alaska over the years, the only place in the United States where wolves are not already listed under the Endangered Species Act."

The ballot initiative effectively repeals a 1993 state regulation allowing anyone with a $15 trapping permit to fly over wolf habitat, land the plane near the wolf pack, and open fire on the animals as long as the hunter stays at least 100 yards from the plane. In the vast wilds of Alaska, the regulation was virtually unenforceable and resulted in unprecedented numbers of wolf kills.

Based upon crude state estimates of 7,000 to 10,000 wolves in Alaska, 1,682 were killed in the 1993-94 season, according to the Wolf Management Reform Coalition, setting a 22-year record high. (These represent reported kills only, and there is no accurate count of the percentage killed involving aircraft.)

Schlickeisen noted that, "This ballot initiative was probably the most important wildlife initiative on state ballots in the 1996 elections. It comes on the heels of the successful reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone; next could be reintroductions in the Southwest and Northeast." He added that, "1996 should down in wildlife conservation history as the year of the wolf."

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Contact(s):

Joan Moody, 202-682-9400 x220 (Media)
Robert Dewey, 202-682-9400 x228 (Program)

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