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FCC stops Alaska's aerial wolf hunt.

Though conservationsits have challenged the biological rationale for aerial hunting of wolves to protect the caribou and moose Alaskans hunt for food and sport (SN: 11/3/84, p. 279), they have had only limited success in thwarting it. In a clever alliance with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), however, wildlife protection groups have put a crimp in the state's ambitious program. On Dec. 27, the FCC ordered that Alaska's game managers cease their use of radio telemetry to track wolf packs earmarked for eradication -- a move that has temporarily shut down the current season's hunt.

According to Dan Smith, whose Washington, D.C.-based organization, Defenders of Wildlife, was instrumental in alerting FCC to the game managers' actions, the radio-collared wolf has been exploited efficiently. "In some cases all but the collared wolf in the pack are killed, leaving the lone wolf to eventually meet up with other wolves and form new packs which, in turn, are shot."

In a letter to Alaska officials explaining his agency's move, H. Frank Wright, chief of FCC's Frequency Liaison Branch, noted that the telemetry equipment game officials used had been authorized under an FCC license granted for biological research. Ruling that Alaska's wolf cull is not research, Wright ordered that the practice stop "until further notice." Alaska officials have been given 30 days to provide written justification for the contested operation. Failure to comply with the order could cost the state a variety of other FCC permits, including those used by police, fire and other emergency-aid agencies.

But the wolves are not out of the woods yet. Public sport trapping is not affected by the ruling. Moreover, the state visually tracked and killed wolves from planes and heliocopters for years before employing the now-outlawed radio tracking. Except for a "threatened" population in Minnesota, the U.S. wolf has been all but eradicated from the lower 48 states. Alaska's wolf population numbers between 6,000 and 10,000.
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Title Annotation:Federal Communications Commission
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 26, 1985
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