Ashley Judd: 'Palin Promotes Brutal Aerial Killing of Wolves'

Did you know that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin promotes the brutal aerial killing of wolves?

You didn't?

Well, that's what actress Ashley Judd claims in a new ad for the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. 

Even worse, according to Judd, Palin is "casting aside science and championing the slaughter of wildlife" (video embedded below the fold):

What's astounding here is that nowhere in the ad is the viewer apprised of why the wolves are being hunted, or the history beyond this policy. Instead, as graphic video rolls of a wolf being shot, Judd says, "Using a low-flying plane, they kill in winter when there is no chance for the wolves to escape."

Ummm...that's the point. After all, the wolves aren't being hunted for sport. They're numbers are being intentionally reduced to increase the population of moose and caribou which Alaskans depend on for food and wolves prey on.

Even the liberal website Slate recognized such in a piece published last September called "Aerial Wolf Gunning 101":

Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska and John McCain's vice presidential pick, is an enthusiastic hunter who has proposed legislation and cash incentives to encourage aerial wolf gunning, the controversial practice of shooting wolves from an aircraft. Do people in Alaska really shoot wolves from planes?

Yes, but only with the government's permission. Aerial shooting yields better results than traditional hunting, since it allows the hunter to cover a lot of ground quickly and track target animals from a clear vantage point. Historically, hunters also used planes to drive animals—polar bears in Alaska and elk in Montana, among others—toward gunmen waiting on the ground. But many hunters found the practice unsportsmanlike, since it violates the "fair chase" ethic, and animal rights activists call it inhumane, since airborne gunmen rarely get a clean (i.e., relatively painless) kill. In response to concerns like these, Congress passed the Federal Airborne Hunting Act of 1972, which made it illegal for hunters to shoot animals from a plane or helicopter.

The federal legislation (PDF) does have a loophole for predator control, permitting state employees or licensed individuals to shoot from an aircraft for the sake of protecting "land, water, wildlife, livestock, domesticated animals, human life, or crops." (This doesn't just apply to wolves; coyotes and foxes are sometimes gunned down from aircraft, especially in Western states.) Since 2003, Alaska has issued aerial wolf-hunting permits in select areas where moose and caribou populations are particularly endangered. The idea is that by killing the predators, the airborne gunmen can ramp up the number of moose and caribou that human hunters can take home for supper.

The need for this practice is addressed by the Wildlife Conservation division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

Wolves and bears are very effective and efficient predators on caribou, moose, deer and other wildlife. In most of Alaska, humans also rely on the same species for food. In Alaska's Interior, predators kill more than 80 percent of the moose and caribou that die during an average year, while humans kill less than 10 percent. In most of the state, predation holds prey populations at levels far below what could be supported by the habitat in the area. Predation is an important part of the ecosystem, and all ADF&G wolf management programs, including control programs, are designed to sustain wolf populations in the future.

The Alaska Board of Game approves wildlife regulations through a public participation process. When the Board determines that people need more moose and/or caribou in a particular area, and restrictions on hunting aren't enough to allow prey populations to increase, predator control programs may be needed. Wolf hunting and trapping rarely reduces wolf numbers enough to increase prey numbers or harvests.

Currently, five wolf control programs are underway that comprises about 9.4% of Alaska's land area. The programs use a closely controlled permit system allowing aerial or same day airborne methods to remove wolves in designated areas. In these areas, wolf numbers will be temporarily reduced, but wolves will not be permanently eliminated from any area. Successful programs allow humans to take more moose, and healthy populations of wolves to continue to thrive in Alaska.

The hunting of wolves as predator control is also not a new practice. According to Defenders of Wildlife, Alaska began paying bounties for wolves back in 1915, and started aerial hunting in 1968. Since then, aerial hunting has been a well-debated but often-used method of trimming the number of wolves to maximize the population of other wildlife.

More recently, the Alaska legislature expanded the practice in March 2000, and reinstated it in 2003 with the signature of then Gov. Frank Murkowski. As such, given the history -- and the wildlife preservation component -- Judd's hysteria is rather preposterous.

Yet, that shouldn't be surprising, for the attack on Palin might be much more political than animal protection oriented given the following posted at the Action Fund's website Monday concerning this issue (emphasis added):

Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund today launched a national campaign to expose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's renewed anti-conservation agenda. The Action Fund first highlighted Palin's record in Alaska during last fall's presidential campaign when it ran TV ads across battleground states, highlighting Palin's championing of the brutal and unnecessary aerial killing of wolves and other carnivores.

"Sarah Palin isn't fading into the background, so neither are we," commented Defenders Action Fund President Rodger Schlickeisen. "Given her known political aspirations, the American public deserves to know what she's doing in Alaska, and about her extreme anti-conservation policies. The list is long, and we will document it all, from her continued promotion of the aerial slaughter of wolves and bears, to her lawsuit to remove the polar bear from the endangered species list, even as the sea ice melts beneath it."

Fascinating. So, if Palin faded into the background and didn't have national political aspirations, this group wouldn't consider it necessary to inform the public about this? Doesn't that imply the entire campaign is about bashing the Governor and NOT saving wolves?

Such seems likely given the group's displeasure with a $150 bounty that Palin had proposed for the severed foreleg of each killed wolf. As the Associated Press reported in 2007, there was a reason for this proposal (emphasis added):

The state is offering incentives for people who kill wolves in an effort to boost Alaska's predator control program, which so far has failed to meet expected numbers.

"Several factors have led to a low wolf take this winter, so we're going to step up our efforts to meet the annual objectives in this important program," Commissioner Denby Lloyd with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a statement Wednesday.

The program, now in its fourth year and operating in five areas of the state, is designed to increase moose and caribou numbers by reducing the number of predators.

The incentives include offering 180 volunteer pilots and aerial gunners $150 in cash for turning in legs of freshly killed wolves, Gov. Sarah Palin's office announced Tuesday.

The state will use the left forelegs of wolves as biological specimens, which can help biologists determine wolf age and will assist the program in the future, Lloyd said. [...]

The Palin administration is anteing up cash because the number of wolf kills this winter is behind schedule. State biologists wanted 382 to 664 wolves killed by the time the snow that helps with tracking disappears this spring. The predator-control season ends April 30.

As of Tuesday morning, 98 wolves had been killed by aerial gunners, hunters and trappers.

Not surprising, the Judd commercial didn't address the reason for the bounty.

Any wonder why?

Political Groups Environment Sarah Palin Ashley Judd
Noel Sheppard's picture