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Fearing Rabies, Villagers Shoot More Than 20 Dogs

Alex DeMarban / The Arctic Sounder / November 08, 2007

Villagers in Marshall have killed at least 22 dogs after wolves - including at least one infected with rabies - attacked sled-dog kennels in the village.

Reports of wolves showing up on the edge of town and near houses has continued since the attack on Wednesday, Oct. 24, when a wolf pack raided kennels and killed seven sled dogs, according to Nick P. Andrew Jr., administrator of the Ohogamiut Traditional Council.

Andrews said the attack also injured other dogs in the village, which has a population of about 375 residents.

There have been no reports of additional attacks in the village since then, he said.

Villagers shot one of the attacking wolves, a juvenile female, during the attack. It tested positive for rabies.

The most recent wolf sighting - about a mile out of town -- came at the airport on Sunday, Nov. 4, when someone spotted a large gray wolf, Andrew said Monday, Nov. 5.

The city has hired a person to shoot stray dogs in the village, fearing wolves may have attacked the dogs and infected them with rabies, said Ann Fitka, city clerk. The shooter has killed 12 stray dogs, she said.

Also, villager Tony Boliver had to kill 10 of his sled dogs after the marauding wolves attacked dogs in his kennel, Fitka said.

Shooting the dogs is the most humane way the village has to kill them because the village has no veterinarian who can euthanize them with barbiturate injections, said Andrew.

Rabies is spread easily through contact with saliva or nerve tissue, and possibly through other bodily fluids, such as blood, said Ron Clarke, an assistant director with the state Department of Fish and Game. It is frequently fatal once it spreads to animals, including humans.

"It's extremely dangerous and a hideous way to die," Clarke said.

Villagers haven't been able to immunize their animals against rabies regularly since the village public safety officer who performed the task left the job about five years ago, Andrew said.

The village wasn't eligible for a new officer because a public safety building is required before one can be hired, he said. The public safety building burned down shortly before the public safety officer left.

A health officer from Bethel visited the village last year, but was unable to catch up with the backlog of dogs needing shots, he said.

The city and tribal council recently renovated a building to house a public safety officer, and in January the entities plan to hire a new officer who can regularly immunize dogs, he said.

Alex DeMarban can be reached at (907) 348-2444 or (800) 770-9830 ext. 444.

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