Concerned with the recent reports of wolves attacking dogs near the Native Village of Eklutna and in the Powder Ridge subdivision, which is being developed by Eklutna Inc., officials have decided to allow an Eagle River trapper onto the corporate property with the hopes of removing one or two wolves and discouraging the remainder of the pack from future attacks.
A bright red caution sign hangs on the gate near Powder Ridge subdivision, warning that Eklutna Inc. has permitted a local trapper access to the private property to set traps for wolves in an effort to stop a recent string of attacks on dogs in the area.
The idea was born out of concern for the safety of Eklutna and Powder Ridge residents.
"We've been worried about the wolf attacks since the first one was reported on the railroad tracks near the village," said Eklutna Inc. CEO Curtis McQueen. "Then with the attack in Powder Ridge, we were approached by a local trapper with approval from (the Alaska Department of ) Fish and Game to actively set traps on our property."
Warning signs were posted Jan. 2 at the gate at the end of Eklutna Park Way, near the Powder Ridge subdivision in north Eagle River, alerting residents that active wolf trapping is in progress and that undeveloped Eklutna Inc. property is closed to the public.
"We don't allow any trespassing on land owned by the corporation," McQueen said. "But we know the residents of Powder Ridge like to walk their dogs along the road. So we are warning them to stay off the property while the trapping is taking place. We have a certain liability, and it would be irresponsible of us to allow the trapping without giving residents a warning."
McQueen emphasized that only one individual will be allowed to set traps on Eklutna property.
"We're not opening our property to anyone with a trapping license," he said. "An experienced trapper came to us with a plan, detailing where each trap would be placed and agreed to allow a member of the Native village to accompany him whenever he is on Eklutna property. All other access to property is still restricted."
According to fish and game biologist Jessy Coltrane, wolf trapping is allowed on public land in the area frequented by the Elmendorf pack, but is not allowed on private property without permission from the owner.
Coltrane said three dogs have died in wolf attacks over the last month, adding that the attacks occurred while the owners were with their dogs.
"It's not that wolves don't ever eat dogs in the Anchorage area, they do almost every year," Coltrane said. "It's just that this is a more concerning situation in the sense that wolves are coming right up when people are with their dogs."
Officials are hoping the capture of one or two wolves will be enough to discourage future attacks. A similar rash of wolf attacks occurred about 13 years ago, according to fish and game officials.
"A limited wolf trap was conducted then," Coltrane said. "After a pair of wolves were trapped, it seemed to discourage the attacks. We're hoping for a similar outcome with these traps."
McQueen added that if the trapping of wolves is successful, nothing would be wasted.
"Part of our agreement with the trapper mandates that all of the hide, meat, and bone be donated to the village for subsistence use," he said. "Artists will use the bones and hide, and everything will be used in a traditional manner."
In addition to Eklutna taking an active role in addressing the wolf issue, Fort Richardson remains closed to recreational use.
Bob Hall, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Garrison Alaska, announced the closure Dec. 22, following an attack involving three women walking their dogs on Artillery Road.
According to Hall, the closures are a precaution to keep anyone recreating on Fort Richardson lands safe and involve all Fort Richardson land north and west of Artillery Road, including some of the sled dog trails at Beach Lake.
Updated information on what parts of the military installation are open or closed is available by calling the Fort Richardson Visitors Center at 384-2916.
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