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The Wounded Wolf

Opinion / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / March 10, 2005

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game made the right call in letting nature run its course up in Evansville, where an injured wolf has been loitering near the small community. Some of the community's residents had wanted to help the wolf and had enlisted the support of Outside organizations to find the animal a home at a sanctuary in Washington state.

Those wanting to help the wolf were surely acting with good intentions. In fact, humans on many occasions come to the aid of wild animals, with a mass dolphin beaching in the Florida Keys being the most recent notable example. The aim with those dolphins, however, was to rehabilitate the survivors and return them to the wild. And there is high speculation that activity by a nearby Navy submarine may have been a factor in driving the 60 or 70 dolphins to low water.

In the Evansville case, though, the issue involves a single animal with a foot injury caused by who knows what. Those are key considerations.

Wild animals in Alaska are injured daily, some in severe ways, by their own actions or by other wild animals, usually by predators but sometimes by rivals of the same species in fits of competition. And those wounded animals on occasion cross paths with humans, some of whom want to go to great lengths to do what they believe is good and right for the animal.

But as a Department of Fish and Game spokesperson noted in this case, Alaska has lots of wounded animals, and the state cannot afford to rescue each one. So the difficult decision was made to leave the Evansville wolf to its own end. Again, it was the correct decision.

An associated fact, however, has added risk to that decision. Some people have taken to feeding the wolf, leading it to associate food with humans. At the same time, the wolf is retaining its wild streak--and that leads to a greater chance that the wolf will harm someone.

Feeding wild animals is generally considered a basic no-no. And while no one is going to be pecked to death by rampaging chickadees from a well-stocked seed tray or suet cage, leaving food out--intentionally or otherwise--for larger animals can lead to serious injury. Let that be a lesson from the Evansville episode.


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