In Tanana, a lone wolf takes sled dogs | Alaska News


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On August nights and early in the morning, the village of Tanana was visited by an unwanted guest. An old black wolf has taken at least four dogs from a mushing family, breaking the chain of one dog and eating the neck of another to keep them away.

“Right now people who have dogs in their backyards are very worried. It happens at night when it’s dark so everyone’s on edge, ”Tanana Chief Executive Lois Huntington said. “There’s really no way to protect the dogs if you don’t have them behind the fence, as all the dogs are usually chained in the open area.”

The first time the old lone wolf was seen in Tanana was in February of last year, but it wasn’t until early August that the predator attacked its first prey – a dog. 50-pound sled chained to Pat Moore’s fishing camp.

“He chewed on the dog’s head and left the head and collar on a chain,” Moore said. “There were no traces of drag; all we saw were wolf tracks moving away.

Moore knew that wolves usually have a pattern: about every 10 days, they circle and come back. But the musher was not in the village when the predator returned and picked up another sled dog.

“This time he broke the chain and left with a dog,” Moore said.

With his daughter, Moore moved the dogs to the yard near their homes, but it wasn’t 10 days, and the wolf had already taken the third dog, and then the fourth a few days later.

“When the wolf came back he tried to fight one of my fiercest dogs, and that dog got a bit torn,” Moore said. “Nothing terrible – just bite marks and stuff like that.”

The dog, who survived, was put on antibiotics but the wolf got away with another “a little more docile,” Moore said. The family moved the dogs to the center of the dogyard, and now Moore’s daughter is waiting for the wolf to return.

“She will try to shoot him,” he said.

Other people in Tanana have also noticed the predator. Some managed to chase him away by yelling at the animal and throwing sticks at it, Moore said. He added that one of his neighbors had a very old dog that was shot and buried, and the wolf came and dug it up and ate it.

Longtime Tanana resident Stan Zuray said “people are worried about their children as well.”

Wolves exist all over Alaska, even in heavily populated areas, said Bridget Borg, a wildlife biologist who studies wolves at Denali National Park. When passing through an area – whether it is a village, town, or town – there is always a risk of encountering them, although generally animals simply act in a curious manner, especially s ‘there is a bitch in heat.

Animals begin to act differently when “some kind of stressor causes them to switch from naturally curious behavior to aggressive predation,” Borg said.

Wolf attacks on dogs usually occur when a wolf starves to death, especially if it lives alone without a pack, explained Kimberlee Beckmen, a researcher and veterinarian at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He may also act aggressively if he has rabies – or if he gets used to being around dogs and realizes that it “might be an easy meal,” she added.

While researchers don’t track wolves specifically around Tanana, in the wider region, “everything looks good from a wolf population perspective,” state wildlife biologist Mark Nelson said, who works in the area, including Tanana.

Borg noted that in Denali, the situation is less optimistic. Caribou calves are now cultured and less vulnerable, and wolves have growing young that need to eat.

“This time of year is not the only time we see cases of famine, but it can be a difficult time,” she said.

Beckmen said that in the Fairbanks area, including the North Pole and Two Rivers, wolf attacks occur every eight to ten years, mainly in light snow years, when moose easily avoid wolves. At the state level, these incidents occur annually or every two years.

“It’s not very common, but there’s usually a reason for it to happen,” Beckmen said. “And once they attack and see how easy it is, they usually repeat that behavior.”

Keeping an eye on dogs is the main thing residents can do to protect them, Borg said.

“If you are away for the day, let your neighbors know and ask them to keep their ears out,” she added. “Dogs generally bark and give alerts, and being in tune with your yard, you will know the difference from other types of alerts.”

Borg added that cleaning up dog food and waste can also help keep predators away, but when incidents do occur, it’s best to report them to the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

“And if anyone sees a wolf approaching, treat it like a bad dog – sound threatening, wave your arms, pick up stones and sticks to throw at them,” she said. “Bear spray is another thing that can be used. “

Moore said that for some, seeing a wolf in Tanana is a novelty, rather than a danger to life or property.

“But I have no doubts at this point that whatever happens out there while it’s dark it’s fair game for this wolf,” he added. “That’s all I know.”

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