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July 29, 2009

The HSUS Calls on Congress to Pass Protect America's Wildlife Act

Proposed Bill Would Ban Inhumane, Unsporting Aerial Gunning of Wolves

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States calls on the U.S. Congress to work quickly to pass the Protect America's Wildlife Act, which will close a loophole in federal law that allows the shooting of wolves and other wildlife using airplanes and helicopters. Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation group, is leading the fight for this bill, and The HSUS backs its effort.

The bill, introduced by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would amend the Airborne Hunting Act of 1971 to clarify the conditions under which states can use airplanes and helicopters to aid in the management of wildlife; bar states from using aerial hunting to artificially boost game species populations; and require states to provide a scientific foundation for their use of the wildlife management exception in the federal Airborne Hunting Act.

"Shooting unsuspecting wolves from airplanes is inhumane, unsporting and violates all principles of fair chase. Alaska's aerial gunning program flies in the face of decency or responsible wildlife management," said Wayne Pacelle, The HSUS' president and CEO. "In the wrong hands, it is a tool that has devastating consequences for wildlife. We are grateful to Senator Feinstein and Congressman Miller for their leadership in working to stop wildlife cruelty by halting aerial gunning."

Alaska's aerial hunting program was initiated to artificially boost the state's population of game animals, such as moose and caribou, to cater to a handful of out-of-state trophy hunters. While wolves sometimes eat moose and caribou calves, studies show that wolves typically eat weaker calves who are likely to die from other causes.

The PAW Act would maintain the ability of states to use aerial control to protect human life, wildlife, land, water, livestock or other domesticated animals or crops, but it would prohibit states from using the practice to artificially boost game species numbers.

Facts

  • Since 2003, more than 1,000 wolves have been shot from aircraft by private hunters in Alaska.
  • In March 2009, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game used helicopters to chase and kill 84 wolves in the Upper Yukon/Tanana wolf control area, which is adjacent to lands that are part of the National Park system.
  • Many wildlife biologists and conservationists question Alaska Department of Fish and Game data on moose population size and demographics.
  • Aerial hunting practices don't just kill wolves; they disrupt pack dynamics by separating adults from their young and can result in maimed wolves who cannot survive in the wild.
  • The gray wolf is classified in Alaska as both a big game animal and a furbearer, and can be legally hunted and trapped in most areas of the state.
  • Not only does aerial hunting occur on land abutting National Park and Preserve lands, but it also occurs on Bureau of Land Management property, and the state of Alaska has been lobbying heavily to permit the practice on National Wildlife Refuges.

Timeline

  • 2008 – Ballot measure 2, which would have prohibited the shooting of wolves from aircraft, failed after a misleading campaign waged by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Palin administration.
  • 2000 – Alaska voters voted for the second time to prohibit the shooting of wolves from aircraft. Their decision was overturned for the second time by the legislature.
  • 1996 – Alaska voters voted to prohibit the shooting of wolves from aircraft. Their decision was overturned by the legislature.
  • 1971 – Congress passed the Airborne Hunting Act, which prohibited shooting or harassing wildlife from aircraft.

The HSUS works to stop wildlife abuse and animal cruelty across the country. Visit humanesociety.org/wildlifeabuse for more information.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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