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Lake Wolf Apparently Kills Beagle

Dog's owner wants wolf killed or moved

I-Chun and Eric Fry / Juneau Empire / March 20, 2005

Looking for his pet: Rick Huteson spent most of Friday afternoon looking for the remains of his miniature beagle, named Tank reportedly killed Wednesday by a wolf in the Mendenhall Lake area. A wolf is a wonder to be enjoyed or a predator to be killed, depending on who's talking.

After a black wolf apparently killed a miniature beagle Wednesday near Mendenhall Lake - the carcass wasn't found - the dog's owner, residents and officials have differing ideas about what to do.

The dog owner, Rick Huteson, wants the wolf relocated or killed.

But some wildlife-watchers say the wolf hasn't previously behaved aggressively to people or dogs since it first appeared near Mendenhall Lake two years ago.

Author Nick Jans, who often watches the wolf from his house, said he's never seen it behave aggressively, 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 Alaska Department of Fish and Game won't remove or kill the wolf at this point, officials said. But an employee has been instructed to shoot the wolf with a rubber bullet.

"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 under Fish and Game.

"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 his dog was killed because officials failed to post signs warning people 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, 20, said.

Huteson said he first saw the wolf a year ago. He said his dogs, both on a leash, didn't notice the wolf that time.

The presumed attack happened at about 3 p.m. Wednesday when Huteson was walking with friends and his two dogs near Dredge Lakes Trail and the lake. His 2-year-old beagle, named Tank, sensed something in the forest and took off. He ran after the dog.

"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 didn't find the dog's carcass or its collar but presumed that it was dead because they saw a puddle of blood.

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, didn't shoot the wolf.

Robus said it is a common practice for his staff members to take a gun with them in the field.

"They are dealing with wild animals, in this situation a wolf that just killed a dog," Robus said. "But that doesn't mean that we have to kill the wolf. It is people's responsibility to protect their dogs."

Robus urged people walking their dogs near Mendenhall Lake to use a leash and not to 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."

Larry Musarra, director of Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, said his staff has been doing a lot of public education during the past two years about staying away from the wolf.

"We always tell people to be respectful of the wolf," Musarra said.

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

"These wildlife opportunities allow a whole range of people in Juneau to see an animal they might never otherwise see," Bennett said. "It's an extremely valuable experience and resource for hundreds and hundreds of people who have had it."

Harriet Dinegar Milks saw the wolf for the first time Thursday.

"He moves in this neat racehorse kind of way. It was a very cool experience," she said.

Milks said she was on the beach at Mendenhall Lake at about 4:30 p.m. with her daughter, 10, and the family's Chesapeake Bay retriever.

Their dog was chasing sticks while she was photographing a wolf pelt she had bought at Anchorage's Fur Rondy. The black wolf came out of the woods, displaying interest and curiosity from about 50 yards away, Milks said, but it wasn't aggressive.

Milks leashed her dog and took it to her car. The wolf didn't follow her.

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