ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Alaska state officials on Friday were considering a controversial plan to shoot wolves in an effort to boost moose populations in one of the state’s top tourist and recreation areas.
An estimated 90 to 135 wolves range across the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, where under the proposal hunters would shoot the animals from aircraft.
Officials have not settled on the number of wolves they might kill under the plan, which was on the agenda for discussion at a meeting on Friday of the Alaska Board of Game.
By decreasing attacks on moose from a major predator, the proposal would allow for a rebound in the moose population, which now stands at about 5,000 and is well below targets, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Ted Spraker, an Alaska Board of Game member from the region, said on a statewide public radio program recently that the public is “disgusted” with the low number of moose.
“They want the board to start doing something,” he added.
But the practice of killing wolves to boost moose populations, especially through aerial shooting, has long been hotly debated in Alaska.
Supporters say it is necessary to give hunters opportunities to get moose meat; detractors say it is an inhumane and biologically unsound practice.
Any state-authorized aerial wolf kills will have to exclude the peninsula’s federal lands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, has not given permission for wolf control on its property, which covers much of the peninsula.
The Alaska Board of Game is expected to make a decision on whether to pursue a moose hunt by Monday, when its meeting lasting several days will end.
Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Greg McCune