A wolf killed during an attack on sled dogs in the Yukon River village of Marshall last week has tested positive for rabies, and state officials Wednesday night said unvaccinated dogs in the village should be euthanized.
The wolf was part of a pack that killed a half-dozen dogs the night of Oct. 24 before villagers chased them out, killing the one wolf and wounding others. Tests returned late Wednesday showed that animal had rabies, and the state's wildlife veterinarian said it's possible other wolves in the pack also have the disease. Dogs could have been infected as well.
"Rabies virus is present in saliva, and when several animals eat from the same source, the virus can be quickly spread to other members of the pack," said Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen, the wildlife vet with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
"However, rabies is extremely rare in wolves in Alaska."
Several dogs were bitten by wolves during the pack's attack, and the state Department of Health and Social Services is advising Marshall residents whose dogs have been vaccinated for rabies to have them revaccinated, and then confine and observe them for 45 days.
Dogs that had not been vaccinated run a high risk of developing the disease in the next few weeks, the health agency said, and can expose other animals and people.
The state "strongly recommends that unvaccinated dogs be euthanized to prevent the risk of spreading the rabies virus to people or other animals," the agencies said in a joint press release.
No people were injured by the wolves. People who were involved in killing, skinning and performing a necropsy on the rabid wolf are being evaluated, the statement said.
Dog owners in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta with questions should contact the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. Office of Environmental Health at 907-543-6420.
Veterinarians in the area have been alerted to the situation.
Find Don Hunter online at adn.com/contact/dhunter or call 257-4349.