Alaska aerial wolf killing limited by lack of snow and daylight

STATE PERMITS: The number is expected to go up when days get longer.

January 14, 2011 

FAIRBANKS -- Lack of snow and daylight has combined to limit the number of wolves killed as part of the Alaska aerial predator control program.

Cathie Harms, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman, said the lack of daylight has left less time for hunters who make the trek to Tok.

"Once you get there you don't have as much time before you have to head back," Harms said. "As the days get longer, we expect that to change."

Snowfall has been less than normal, making tracking more difficult and limiting landing conditions for pilots who must pick up any wolves that are shot.

Only 25.4 inches of snow has been recorded at Fairbanks International Airport -- about half of what has normally fallen by this time of year -- indicating landing conditions would be rough in most places.

As of Thursday, pilot-gunner teams with state permits had taken a total of 29 wolves, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

There were 24 killed in Nelchina Basin and five in west Cook Inlet.

No wolves have been reported taken in the three Interior regions where aerial wolf control is permitted -- near McGrath; in the central Kuskokwim River region; and the upper Tanana-Yukon region.

Alaska has issued permits to pilot-gunner teams for seven years to shoot wolves from the air or land and in specific game management areas.

Lack of snow also made for rough landing conditions around the state last year, when only 28.3 inches of snow fell at the airport in Fairbanks, making it the third-lowest snowfall on record in Fairbanks since 1904.

A total of 42 wolves were killed last year, the lowest annual total for the predator control program.

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