A sled dog tour operator in the Interior village of Bettles said wolves have killed and eaten two of his sled dogs in the past two weeks, continuing what has been a statewide trend this winter.
"They drug them right out of their collars," Max Hanst said by phone Tuesday from the village 180 miles north of Fairbanks. "The most recent one was three nights ago. I lost another one six days before that."
Three days prior to the first attack, Hanst said he shot and killed an old, emaciated wolf trying to dig its way into a puppy pen.
"I think the ones getting the dogs are healthy wolves," he said.
Both dogs that were killed were part of Hanst's sled dog touring business, Brooks Range Expeditions. One of them, Tundra, was 8 years old, and the other, Weasel, was 6 years old.
"They were good dogs," Hanst said.
Similar wolf attacks on dogs have been reported and documented in both Fairbanks and Anchorage earlier this winter.
There have been three confirmed dog deaths by wolves in the Fairbanks/North Pole area and more unconfirmed reports involving missing dogs.
Hanst said tracks indicated that at least three wolves came into his dog lot. The wolves are following a trail that comes into his yard from the north, he said.
In eight years living in Bettles, Hanst said the only other wolf problem he had came three years ago when his pet dog was attacked outside his home. Hanst killed that wolf, which he said was also old and emaciated.
"I haven't had any problems up here to this point," he said, though he has heard of similar attacks in the village of Allakaket, about 50 miles south on the Koyukuk River.
Hanst suspects wolves in the area are killing dogs because they can't find any moose. The moose population in the area is low, he said.
"I think they're all having a hard time with the low moose densities around here," said Hanst, a member of the Koyukuk Fish and Game Advisory Committee.
While Hanst is a trapper, he hasn't trapped much this winter because of time constraints. Neither does he like to trap close to town, where catching a loose dog is always a possibility.
But with two of his sled dogs dead, Hanst said he may have to round up the loose dogs and start laying some wolf traps.
"It definitely kind of puts us in a position to start getting pretty aggressive trying to take those wolves," he said.