Wolf Song of Alaska News

Wolf Concerns Prompt Questions About State's Predator Control Program

 Corey Allen-Young / CBS 11 News / March 10, 2010


With most folks shocked at the possibility of wolves killing people, many question how effective the state's controversial predator control program is protecting Alaskans. In areas around the Alaska Peninsula where authorities suspect wolves killed 32 year old Candice Berner, folks say this is an ongoing problem and if it's not fixed, the special education teacher's death on Chignik Lake could happen again.

Dealing with the threat of wolves is pretty common for residents on the Alaska Peninsula.

"I mean they have taken dogs off of chains," said Greg Kingsley, a Pilot Point resident. "From Pilot Point, they have come in and have killed a few dogs in the past few years."

But with predator control and aerial wolf killing only allowed in certain places, in areas like Chignik Lake and Pilot Point, it's becoming a growing problem.

"There's often not a lot of snow and our winters are much milder, and they are able to have more efficient seasons I guess," said Kingsley. "When they have the right conditions, wolves will certainly kill as much as they can."
The attack has state leaders are reminding Alaskans they do have the right to protect themselves.

"Under state regulations, the community is allowed to kill up to ten wolves per day per person for protection," said Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River.

What Senator Dyson is talking about is regulations, which allow residents to kill wolves if they are deemed dangerous by Fish and Game.

"So the issue there certainly hasn't been our regulations in the state," said Sen. Dyson. "I suspect the population of wolves near there is significantly less today than it was Monday."

It's an issue that those against a full-fledged predator control program say is not the answer.

"To me, it's a pretty bogus issue although I know it strikes at the heart strings of a lot of people who want to be macho and go out there and kill animals," said John Toppenberg, who is the director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance.
The Alaska Wildlife Alliance says it doesn't oppose a professional predator control process but allowing anyone to shoot and kill can actually make the wolves more dangerous.

"They become desperate. They become far more likely to go into towns, to frequent trails, to become problem wolves," said Toppenberg.

But if you ask those who live in the Alaska Peninsula, when it comes to the wolves, something has to be done.

Calls into Alaska Fish and Game officials on whether predator control regulations could change because of the suspected deadly wolf attack in Chignik Lake weze not returned.

There are more than 11,000 wolves statewide and in The Municipality of Anchorage, which stretches from the Knik River to Portage and includes Chugach State Park, there are about 30 wolves roaming around.

"There are two packs and there's probably ten or so wolves combined in those two packs, kind of in the Ship Creek-Fort Richardson area, more or less," said Rick Sinnott, a wildlife biologist for Alaska Fish and Game.
With two packs of wolves living around the Anchorage area, the concern for Fish and Game officials is how they are around people.

"We worry about places like Anchorage. Occasionally, we will have a spade of calls and reports of wolves harassing dogs," said Sinnott.

The problem of wolves in town is nothing new. If you remember back in 2007, the pack known as the Elmendorf pack was involved in attacks on dogs and their owners.

"This particular pack has a habit of trying to lure dogs away from owners to consume them," said Herman Griese, a wildlife biologist for the Elmendorf AFB Third Wing.

Officials say although there are no problems yet this year, they have been keeping track of the wolves through reports and tracking collars.

"We don't have any information right now that says they are aggressive towards humans. They certainly are looking for opportunities to take dogs from their owners," said Griese.
"We've captured several wolves in the Anchorage area with leg hold traps and put radio collars on them and let them go," said Sinnott.

The idea is to keep the wolves away from human beings by not giving them a food source to depend on and scaring them away by hunting and trapping outside the Anchorage bowl.

"As a general rule wolves become more dangerous to people if they get human food, if they become more and more habituated like that," said Sinnott.

Bottom line here in Anchorage, although you may see wolves, for the most part they aren't coming anywhere near you.

"They are weary enough in most years where they don't want to approach people. They hear you coming or they see you, and they just tend to avoid housing areas and people and joggers and stuff," said Sinnott.

Hunting and trapping of wolves is only allowed in certain areas of the Chugach State Park, the Knik River and around Girdwood at 20 mile and beyond. Officials say if a member of the pack is trapped or shot, the other wolves gain a new respect for people and will stay away.

To contact the Newsroom, call 907-274-1111.


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