Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Looking for answers: George Jefferson stands near where a black wolf was found shot and with its throat cut last month. Jefferson owns the Thane Ore House a few hundred yards down the road.
Several weeks after the illegal shooting of a black wolf in Juneau, Alaska State Troopers are guardedly optimistic a locally raised reward - at $9,000, and growing - will help crack the case.
"There's a lot of money out there, so the chances are still good," Trooper Todd Machacek said.
The reward total started at $3,000 a few weeks ago but has reached $9,000, and is still increasing, said Juneau author Nick Jans, who helped organize the award effort. The money will go to someone who provides information resulting in prosecution of the wolf's killer or killers.
The community reward was combined with a $5,000 award offered by a local dog sled tour operator.
"I've been getting one to three additional pledges per day," Jans added. "There were so many people who offered, we realized that this was a way of giving people ownership ... of making a collective statement."
Machacek is getting assistance on the wolf case from a federal wildlife agent, but it is only one of many cases in the region the trooper is pursuing, he said.
Some Juneau residents have expressed frustration that, from their viewpoint, the wolf case appears to be a low priority for the State Troopers' Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement.
Some Thane Road residents who live near the spot the wolf was discovered said they were disturbed that the troopers didn't contact them within days of the crime for possible information.
"I hadn't heard from them, so I called them," said Paula Terrel, a Thane resident.
The case has hit home for Juneau wildlife enthusiasts, who fear that the dead wolf is Romeo, a high-visibility wolf who often played with pet dogs at Juneau's Mendenhall Glacier.
It is still unknown whether the dead wolf is Romeo. State biologists plan to submit the wolf's hair for DNA comparison with previous samples from Romeo, but haven't done so yet, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Juneau area management biologist Neil Barten.
The dead wolf has been estimated at four years old, or older, Barten said.
Since the illegal wolf shooting, Machacek said he's had "a lot of cases develop." The trooper has, however, interviewed residents and business owners along Thane Road, where the black wolf was discovered dead on July 17.
Troopers and state biologists believe the wolf had been shot the day before, a Sunday.
"We're hoping somebody from the community will step forward," Machacek said.
In the last few weeks, more than a dozen Juneau residents contributed money toward a reward for information in the criminal case, Jans said. The posters - featuring a photo of a black wolf blazoned on posters at bulletin boards all over the city.
The killer of the wolf - shot and with its throat slit - broke several state hunting regulations, including taking a wolf out of season; failing to salvage a game animal; and possibly killing big game and discharging a gun within a quarter-mile of a road.
All are misdemeanor offenses, punishable with a $10,000 fine and a year in jail. Law enforcement officers want anyone with information about the wolf killing to call the Juneau's Alaska State Trooper post at 465-4000