Wolf Song of Alaska News

When the Wolf was at the Village's Door

Dustin Solberg / The Tundra Times / November 16, 2007

The girls' volleyball team is winning, and the new entrance to the village clinic will open this month. Crews continue their work on a sewer project, too.

But it was the marauding pack of wolves that cast a spotlight on Marshall in recent weeks.

People in the Yukon River village, where a pack of wolves attacked and killed a half-dozen sled dogs in the early winter darkness, defended its streets with rifles.

The village hasn't faced the "acts of God" more typical in the Bush: Flooding is never a threat, and the last tundra fire on the hill above the village didn't come close enough to make people nervous.

The rabid wolf pack did come too close, and more than once. Marshall, population 387, responded by keeping close watch on its children and vaccinating as many village dogs as it could. The last sighting came on the weekend of Nov. 3, when someone spotted a lone wolf about a mile from the village at the old airport.

"It's a little bit more relaxed," Marshall Mayor Ray Alstrom said. "Knock on wood, you know. Hopefully."

The wolf attacks took some voices from the chorus of village dogs. Wolves killed a half-dozen dogs on two nights, and village residents killed about a dozen stray dogs that may have come in contact with the marauding wolves. The dogs were killed and burned at the village landfill.

A two-person team of health officials from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. led a vaccination drive in Marshall last week and also spoke to students at the school.

Parents, too, have tried to ease their children's concerns while protecting them against a real threat.

Jake Isaac said he told his children, "'There are people out to get the wolves, but you need to stay close or stay inside and let us know where you are going during the day.'"

He added that people in the village "have a great respect for the wolves because they're such a strong animal. About five or six village residents hunt or trap wolves, said Isaac, the village environmental coordinator.

"I think people, the guys that actually go out to hunt wolves, will most likely be more active," he said.

Village elders have told of wolves attacking dogs in the past.

The drama dominated the chatter on village VHF radios for a while, and it drew a united response from Marshall residents.

"I think it pulled the community together more closely," he said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game confirmed that a wolf killed in the village tested positive for the rabies virus. The agency has reported that the entire pack is likely infected with rabies. Ten years ago, in the most recent confirmed rabies case, a wolf in Dillingham tested positive.

Rabies appears in dogs in Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages almost every year, said Phillip Perry, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game Department biologist in Bethel. He added that many believe the rabies spread to the wolves from foxes. The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of infected individuals.

Alex DeMarban contributed to this report.
Dustin Solberg can be reached at (907) 348-2480 or toll free at (800) 770-9830, ext. 480.

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