Alaska hunt launched to combat threatening wolves

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (BestGrowthStock) – A state-approved aerial wolf hunt in southwestern Alaska was launched on Thursday to protect residents of a tiny village who say the animals are threatening public safety.

Wolves around Port Heiden, a fishing village of about 85 people located some 400 miles southwest of Anchorage, have become increasingly bold, venturing into town, killing pets and showing none of their normal fear of humans, according to local and state officials.

Concerns also are running high because of a fatal wolf attack last March on a teacher who was jogging alone in the nearby Alaska Peninsula village of Chignik Lake, an event that biologists say was highly unusual.

“If there hadn’t been a fatality on a human, we probably wouldn’t be getting the attention that we’re getting. I’m sure it lays heavy on people’s minds that it could happen,” said Scott Anderson, Port Heiden’s mayor.

He said residents, who asked state officials to thin out wolf packs in the area, have changed their habits in response to the threat and are especially protective of children.

“We’re not letting nobody play tag these evenings,” he added.

The wolf hunt, which involves sending state workers out in aircraft to shoot the animals, was approved by state officials on Wednesday, fish and game supervisor Bruce Dale said.

As of Thursday, state game officials had killed eight or 10 wolves, according to local reports, Anderson said.

Hunger and overpopulation was likely driving the animals into the village and making them so aggressive, Anderson said. “They’re just getting too many of them. There’s not enough food to go around for all of them,” he said.

The mauling last March in Chignik Lake was only the second fatal attack on a person by a healthy wild wolf on record in North America, according to state wildlife officials. Most wolf-related deaths and serious injuries in North America have involved hybrids kept as pets, state officials have said.

Wolves in Alaska are considered plentiful, unlike the situation in the Rocky Mountains, where the animals were reintroduced in the mid-1990s and are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have been pressing to lift federal protections of wolves, which ranchers see as threatening their livestock herds.

Alaska allows public wolf hunts annually, usually conducted by trappers seeking furs.

The state has, at times, conducted wolf-control operations to suppress numbers of the animals in the wild. However, those are controversial because their usual purpose is to boost moose and caribou populations for the benefit of sport hunters.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Greg McCune)

Alaska hunt launched to combat threatening wolves