But given the lack of rabies risk, many wildlife advocates feel the new "kill-on-site" protocol was actually adopted for other reasons, including: the current state administration, and its political supporters, harbor an irrational disdain, even hatred, for wolves; in remote areas, without the watchful eye of the news media, the state feels it is more expedient to just kill orphaned pups than to arrange their collection and placement; the state doesn't want to attract attention to the inhumane consequences of its scientifically unjustified predator control programs by providing an opportunity for news media to cover the live collection and placement of orphaned young; and the state doesn't want the public to understand that the "hidden" effects of its predator control programs are far greater than just the number of adults killed.
Wolf pups and bear cubs remain dependent on their parents for more than a year, thus parents killed by state predator control or liberalized hunting and trapping regulations also results in the death of dependent cubs and pups, which are not added to the kill count.
A month after the new kill-on-site protocol was adopted, on June 7, 2009, two newborn wolf pups that had been orphaned by the state wolf control effort in the area, were lethally gassed in their dens with carbon monoxide by ADFG biologists. Their carcasses were not collected and tested for rabies, and left to decompose in the den. This was the first, and so far only, time in state history that newborn wildlife has been lethally gassed. This remains state policy today.
In Feb 2014, ADFG was asked to rescind its 2009 (lethal) wolf pup protocol, and revert to its 2008 (non-lethal) protocol, but the agency declined, again citing its concern for rabies in wolf pups. Then, after the rescue of the five Kenai wolf pups last week the state was asked again to apply this non-lethal collect-and-place protocol to the entire state, arguing not only that there has never been a report of rabies in wolf pups, but also that the half dozen reports of rabies in adult wolves in the historical record (the past 70 years) were all from the Arctic. Thus the risk of rabies from wolf pups, or even adult wolves in the rest of Alaska, is exceedingly low.
Despite this argument, ADFG announced yesterday, in a June 1, 2014 email from Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Doug Vincent-Lang, the following: "We stand by our new wolf pup protocol given advice from our vet regarding rabies. Rabies is a serious disease and I trust the advice of my professionals on this issue. It is fortunate that the wolf pups from the Kenai were from a rabies free zone and could be placed."
The agency did not provide an explanation for why its veterinarians feel rabies in wolf pups presents a risk when there has never been a reported case. Thus, any wolf pups found orphaned by the state's predator control programs in western and northern Alaska will continue to be lethally gassed. Additionally, in a May 29, 2014 press release, ADFG admitted that its biologists had recently (this spring) killed newborn black bear cubs in its Kuskokwim (GMU 19A) predator control effort. Apparently there was no effort made to collect-and-place the newborn bear cubs.