The exiting Obama administration gave animal rights groups a major victory Wednesday, ending predator hunts over 76 million acres of Alaska wildlife refuges and handing hunters, the National Rifle Association and the state's own Board of Game a huge defeat.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled an end to aggressive hunts of predators like bears and wolves, nixing hunting by plane and helicopter, baiting, killing mother bears with their cubs and wolves and wolf pups in their dens.

"This is not sportsmanship. It is purportedly aimed at increasing populations of caribou and moose but defies modern science of predator-prey relationships," said USFWS Director Dan Ashe.

At issue was the state's policies of allowing predators to be hunted aggressively and by means some find unethical so that there would be fewer bears and wolves to kill the moose, caribou and deer sought by two-legged hunters.

"There comes a time when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service must stand up for the authorities and principles that underpin our work and say 'No,'" said Ashe.

Animal rights groups heralded the action.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said, "This is a landmark day for some of the nation's most majestic, recognizable, and woefully mistreated wild animals. And 'landmark' barely says enough."

Defenders of Wildlife said, "Anti-wildlife representatives in Congress and Alaska's state government have been fighting this rule since it was first proposed in January, and will surely continue to do so. We commend the Fish and Wildlife Service for finalizing this important rule, which upholds bedrock environmental laws like the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act and the Wilderness Act. This action sends a clear message that science, not politics, governs our public lands."

The new rule does not stop hunting in the 16 federally protected wildlife refuges in Alaska, only the practice of "intensive predator management."

According to the state department of fish and game, "Predator control programs authorized under intensive management regulations are currently active in eight specific areas in Alaska, covering approximately 10% of the state's land area. These programs are designed to reduce predation by wolves or bears and increase moose, caribou, or deer populations that are a needed food source for Alaskans."

Alaska lawmakers have tried to stop the administration, but Ashe's department move forward.

State officials such as Sen. Dan Sullivan has charged that the federal government is taking too much control from the state in an ever increasing "creep."

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at