WASHINGTON (AP) - These are not the typical wolves of political ads - not the menaces depicted by George W. Bush in 2004 or John McCain just a couple of weeks ago. These animals are bloodied, gruesome victims.
As depicted in a Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund ad, they are Sarah Palin's prey. The commercial denounces, in graphic form, the aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska, a practice Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, has supported as the state's governor.
The wildlife group is expanding the reach of the provocative ad. Starting this week, what had been limited to certain markets in Florida, Michigan and Ohio will now air in Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin.
It also will air in Missouri in time for Thursday's vice presidential debate in St. Louis.
The ad displays dark images of Palin against footage of wolves being hunted down in the snow from low-flying planes. A wolf's carcass is shown tied to the wing strut of a plane.
"As Alaska governor, Sarah Palin actively promotes the brutal and unethical aerial hunting of wolves and other wildlife," the ad's announcer says. "And Palin even encouraged the cruelty by proposing a $150 bounty for the severed foreleg of each killed wolf, and then introduced a bill to make the killing easier."
The loaded language aside, the facts of the ad are accurate, although it leaves out the motivation behind the state policy.
Palin supports the aerial hunting of wolves as part of a state-sponsored predator-control program intended to increase the number of moose and caribou in several areas of Alaska. Rural residents, who rely on hunting to survive, had complained there wasn't enough game to hunt and eat.
The program began under her predecessor, Gov. Frank Murkowski, and continues with her support. Private citizens are permitted to shoot wolves from the air or conduct land-and-shoot hunting of wolves in five rural areas of the state. More than 700 wolves have been killed since the program began almost five years ago, state officials say.
Last year, Palin's office announced the state would offer cash to kill wolves. Incentives included offering volunteer pilots and aerial gunner teams $150 for turning in the forelegs of freshly killed wolves.
The state said the legs could help biologists determine a wolf's age, while the money helped hunters and aerial teams pay for gas and expenses. A Superior Court judge later blocked the payments after conservation groups argued the money amounted to an illegal bounty.
Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, which has endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president, is a nonprofit 501(c)4 corporation that can operate outside the strict limits governing political action committees. It can raise money in unlimited amounts from individual donors and can run ads that refer to political candidates as long as they don't specifically advocate their election or defeat.
The ad has received widespread notice on the Internet and has been an effective fundraising tool for Defenders of Wildlife. The group says it raised $600,000 in the six hours after it was released in mid-September and says it now has raised $1 million.
The group is aiming the ad at suburban women and moderate independent voters.
The ad follows closely on the heels of a McCain commercial that depicted Obama researchers and investigators combing through Palin's background as a pack of wolves.
Hunter or hunted, it all depends on the ad.