Whiteout conditions in Chignik Lake this afternoon grounded authorities searching for the wolves believed to have killed a schoolteacher earlier in the week.
Local hunters were still out patrolling for several wolves that Alaska State Troopers concluded Thursday were most likely responsible in the death of 32-year-old Candice Berner, a Perryville-based special education teacher killed Monday evening as she jogged along a road outside Chignik Lake.
Alaska State Troopers have sent an officer and an R-44 helicopter to the village on the Alaska Peninsula to assist the state Department of Fish and Game in capturing or killing the wolves, spokeswoman Megan Peters said.
A handful of hunters on snowmachines was also continuing ground patrols in search of the wolves but had not yet killed any, said Johnny Lind, a resident of Chignik Lake and member of the Chignik Advisory Committee to the Board of Game.
Snow was falling on fresh wolf tracks villagers spotted near town this morning and keeping an aerial search on the ground, he said.
"They can't fly right now," Lind said at mid-afternoon. "It's snow coming straight down. It's almost zero-zero, hardly no visibility."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the nearby Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge, has a representative in the village to assist state authorities and also approved a 10-day special-use permit allowing state authorities to cross refuge boundaries in pursuit of the wolves, FWS spokesman Bruce Woods said.
"It's something that we only issue when human health or human safety is in question," Woods said. "Even though this didn't take place on refuge lands, there are refuge lands that conceivably they could have to cross over if they were in the act of either trying to capture or kill some of these wolves.
"Normally aerial predator control isn't allowed on refuge lands."
Berner, originally of Slippery Rock, Pa., was found dead Monday off the gravel road by a group of snowmachiners. An autopsy conducted Thursday determined she was killed in an animal mauling, and troopers concluded wolves were the most likely culprits.
They say they think at least two or three were involved in the attack.
Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.