A wolf pack that has been commuting between North Pole and Two Rivers for the past month, eating pet dogs as it goes, has apparently struck again, this time at Mile 16.5 Chena Hot Springs Road.
Longtime Two Rivers resident Bill Blizzard said he discovered his 11-year-old Labrador/Chesapeake Bay retriever mix, Chesie, missing at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday when he went out to feed his three dogs chained up about 200 feet from his home.
"All there was was a couple chunks of collar sitting on top of three or four pieces of intestine," said Blizzard of what remained of his 70-pound pet. "Everything is gone. It looks like they ate her right there."
He isn't sure when the wolves struck but suspects it was early Tuesday morning.
"I think they hit around 6 a.m. (Tuesday) because my neighbor said her dogs went off around 6 a.m.," Blizzard said.
Chesie's two siblings, Buster and Banjo, who were chained up in the same area, weren't touched and gave no warning wolves were in the yard.
"They didn't make a sound," Blizzard said. "How do they eat a dog with two other dogs in the yard and you don't hear nothing? That's how quiet they were."
State wildlife officials with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game suspect it's the same pack of wolves that have been roaming the area for more than a month and have killed and eaten at least two other dogs, one at Mile 19.5 Chena Hot Springs Road on Nov. 23 and one in North Pole on Oct. 31. The wolves have also been spotted several times by residents living along the first 20 miles of Chena Hot Springs Road.
After hearing of reports about the wolves in the area, Blizzard said he was laying in wait when they evidently struck.
"I was laying next to the door with my 18-inch barrel Mossberg with a flashlight and my bunny boots; I was ready," said Blizzard, a former dog musher who has lived in Two Rivers for more than 30 years. "The wind was blowing, and I didn't hear nothing."
Blizzard reported the incident to the Department of Fish and Game but spokeswoman Cathie Harms said at this point there isn't much the department can do because the wolves are gone by the time anyone gets there and they don't know where they will strike next.
"The chances of us being in the right place at the right time in the hundreds of square miles this wolf pack roams is near impossible," Harms said. "The people that are going to have a chance to take action are the people that live there."
The department is trying to work with trappers to catch the wolves, but that's tough to do in a residential area where loose dogs can also be caught in traps, she said.
There is a rumor that a trapper in Two Rivers caught or shot three wolves in the area, but department officials have not been able to confirm that, Harms said.
State wildlife officials initially thought there were five or six wolves in the pack, but no more than three have been seen at a time, Harms noted.
Even if they were able to find and tranquilize the wolves, which is unlikely, Harms said relocating them is not an option.
"We don't have any place to move them," she said. "Our only option would be shoot them."
So far, the wolves have carried out their attacks on dogs under the cover of darkness and have not approached people, Harms said.
"Every report so far indicates these wolves are pretty leery of people," she said.
Harms advised residents to take precautions by keeping their pets in a fenced-in area or inside a house or building. Even plastic fencing like the orange mesh used at construction sites might keep wolves away, she said. Another possibility is stringing rope around the yard with rags attached that can flap in the wind. Soaking the rags in something with a strong scent, such as Clorox, ammonia or urine, isn't a bad idea either, she said.
"Something that holds a scent for a long time," Harms said.