FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Shooting wolves from a moving snowmachine will be legal starting next winter in selected areas of Alaska.
In one of its final actions during an 11-day meeting in Fairbanks, the Alaska Board of Game voted unanimously Monday to allow hunters on snowmachines to chase down and shoot wolves in areas where wolf control plans have been approved but not carried out.
The decision is an exception to state regulations that prohibit hunters from shooting game from a moving, motorized vehicle.
The Game Board voted to permit snowmachine hunting of wolves near McGrath, in part of the Tanana Flats and foothills of the Alaska Range, near Delta Junction and in part of the Nelchina Basin. All four areas have been identified by the Game Board as intensive management areas in need of predator control.
''Given that we haven't had any tools to use to bring wolf numbers down in areas where we've determined they need to be reduced it's a way to get at that,'' said Game Board Chairwoman Lori Quakenbush. ''It's another way to allow wolves to be harvested using normal hunting methods and means outside of wolf control.''
The decision will undoubtedly raise questions about fair chase, but given the declining moose populations in places like McGrath and the Nelchina Basin and Gov. Tony Knowles' refusal to authorize the killing of wolves in those areas, Quakenbush said the board had no choice but to do everything in its power to reduce wolf numbers.
''We felt it was necessary,'' she said.
Knowles was disappointed with the board's decision and on Monday said he hoped Alaska hunters would maintain fair chase standards when pursuing wolves, whether on a snowmachine or pair of snowshoes.
''I would hope they would give consideration to good hunting ethics,'' Knowles said.
Bud Burris, a retired wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and an active advocate of wolf control, submitted the proposal. He said the crises in McGrath and the Nelchina Basin have erased the consideration for fair chase.
''I'm not talking about fair chase,'' Burris said. ''I'm talking about helping people manage their wildlife.''
Nobody knows how much impact the new regulation will have and how many hunters will take advantage of it.
Shooting a wolf from a moving snowmachine isn't easy ''unless you're lefthanded and a pretty good shot with a pistol,'' Burris said.
''I don't think it will be as productive as it sounds,'' Quakenbush said. ''In most cases the terrain is so rough that people can't drive their snowmachines fast enough to keep up with the wolves. I think the wolves will have the advantage for the most part.''
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