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October 16, 2008

Our Wolf Experts Answer Your Questions: Part II

Question 4: Michele K asks: "Why are wolves in Alaska being shot from airplanes if the are still protected under the Endangered Species Act?  Why isn't that being shut down?"

Caroline_bio Our Senior Director of Field Conservation and Alaska wolf expert, Caroline Kennedy, answers: "Because wolf populations in Alaska have never declined to the extent they have in other states, they were never listed under Endangered Species Act. Alaska classifies wolves as both big game animals and furbearers, which means they can be hunted and trapped. The state has implemented predator control programs in certain parts of the state in order to artificially boost game populations. Their preferred method of killing wolves in these areas is aerial and land and shoot hunting. Each winter, the state issues permits to Alaska residents allowing them to shoot wolves using airplanes.

More than 30 years ago, Congress passed the Airborne Hunting Act to stop the aerial hunting of wolves and other wildlife. But Alaska is exploiting a loophole in this federal law that needs to be closed in order to end the state’s aerial hunting program. Congressman George Miller has introduced legislation that would fix the loophole and prevent other states from adopting similar programs when wolves are removed from the Endangered Species Act."

For more about aerial hunting, read our fact sheet.

Question 5: Randy B asks: "As a supporter of wolves I am often faced with accusations of wolf attacks on people. I have heard that no human has ever been killed in the US by a wolf. Is this true? What is the record of wolf caused injuries ? How do wolf attacks compare to cougar, bear, coyote and bobcats attacks?"

Gina_bio_3 Our Conservation Associate, Gina Schrader answers: "In general, wolves fear humans and do not approach them. As of October 2008, there is no documented case of a healthy, wild wolf killing a human in the United States. In fact, very few incidents involving wolves attacking humans have occurred in North America. Those rare occurrences were reportedly caused because wolves associated humans as a food source, or because a wolf was likely reacting to the presence of dogs. 

Arguments regarding the danger of wolves to humans should be tempered by an understanding of their relative occurrence compared to attacks on or deaths of humans caused by other animals. For instance, each year 90 to 100 deaths from bee or wasp sting reactions occur in the United States. Furthermore, 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and approximately 16 fatalities result from such bites.

To prevent conflicts with wildlife, people must act responsibly by never feeding or approaching wild animals or take other actions that cause wild animals to lose fear of humans."

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