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Wolf Suspected in Dog Death Won't be Killed

Associated Press / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / March 21, 2005

Juneau--State game authorities have no plans to kill or relocate a wolf regularly spotted near Mendenhall Lake even though it may have killed a dog.

A beagle belonging to Rick Huteson, 20, followed the wolf into the forest and disappeared. Huteson wants the wolf relocated or killed.

Wildlife watchers say the wolf had not behaved aggressively to people or dogs since it appeared near Mendenhall Lake two years ago. The lake is formed by water melting from Mendenhall Glacier.

Nick Jans, who often watches the wolf from his house, said the animal has not been aggressive even when people or dogs "acted poorly or crowded him." Neighborhood dogs sometimes enter the woods and play with the wolf for hours, he said.

The Department of Fish and Game has instructed an employee to shoot the wolf with rubber bullets but will not remove or kill the wolf.

"We are trying to use some aversive techniques to give the wolf some negative experience around people so he would stay away from people and dogs rather than come toward them," said Matt Robus, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.

"Lots of people want to keep the wolf here. They think this is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy wildlife," Robus said. "If we try to remove or kill the animal, we will get more criticism than the current situation. This is no-win situation for us."

Huteson said game officials should have posted signs warning of the wolf.

"Had there been signs and frequent warnings of the location of this wolf and the potential danger that it is posing to humans, I would not have put my dogs or myself in danger," Huteson said.

Huteson first saw the wolf a year ago. His dogs, both on a leash, did not notice the animal.

At about 3 p.m. Wednesday, Huteson was walking with friends and his two dogs near Dredge Lakes Trail and the lake. His 2-year-old beagle, Tank, sensed something in the forest and took off. Huteson followed.

"It was only a matter of seconds before I heard a deep growl right in front of me and lost sight of Tank," Huteson said. "A few seconds later, I saw the wolf running from me and I knew that Tank was in his mouth."

The next day, Huteson went back to the trail with a Fish and Game biologist. They did not find the dog's carcass or its collar but found a puddle of blood and concluded the beagle had died.

On their way back, they saw the wolf near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. Huteson said he was disappointed that the biologist, who carried a 12-gauge shotgun, did not shoot the wolf.

Robus said it's people's responsibility to protect their dogs. He urged people dog owners to use a leash and not let their dogs interact with the wolf.

"People have seen the wolf try to play with dogs," Robus said. "It either demonstrates social playfulness or tries to lure the dogs off the owners. Both are possibilities."

Joel Bennett, a former 15-year member of the Alaska Board of Game, is concerned that wolf opponents will take the law into their own hands. It's illegal to hunt and trap near Mendenhall Lake.
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