A lone wolf is apparently stalking dogs on Chena Ridge in west Fairbanks and a state wildlife biologist said there's a chance it's a member of the pack that killed and ate three dogs in North Pole and Two Rivers two months ago.
One dog was attacked on Becker Ridge Road last week, though it survived, and there have been several sightings of a single wolf and wolf tracks reported in the area atop Chena Ridge, according to assistant area management biologist Tom Seaton with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks.
"I think it's highly likely there's a wolf there," Seaton said.
Whether or not it's one of the wolves that was roaming the North Pole/Two Rivers area in November and December is open to speculation, he said.
"I think it's possible it's one of the Chena Hot Springs Road wolves, because of its behavior," said Seaton, referring to the fact it appears to be stalking dogs. "It seems interesting the wolves that were killing dogs on Chena Hot Springs Road disappear and a wolf shows up on Chena Ridge attacking dogs. You have to wonder if it's learned behavior."
A wolf would have no problem covering that kind of distance, he said.
"A wolf could hop on the Tanana River at the (Chena Flood Control Project), trot down the river and climb up over the bank and be right there," he said. "A wolf could do that in a day, no problem."
Sharon McLeod-Everette reported that her 2-year-old husky/lab mix, Jake, was attacked by a wolf Jan. 30. McLeod-Everette, a long-time hunting guide and former member of the state Board of Game, said she let Jake out of her car when she turned onto Becker Ridge Road to run the last mile to the house, a routine practice.
But the dog stopped at a neighbor's house about halfway down the road to visit some other dogs, which he often does. When the dog didn't arrive home with McLeod-Everette, she began calling him, thinking that he had run back to play with the other dogs.
"He just came barreling down the driveway, wild-eyed and covered with slobber from stem to stern," she said of the 90-pound dog.
At first, McLeod-Everette wondered how the dog was able to run that far back so quickly and had time to play with the other dogs. It wasn't until later that night, when McLeod-Everette noticed Jake acting stiff and sore, that she discovered the dog had been bitten nine times, including what she described as "two good holes," one on its hamstring and one its chest.
Given the fact that she hadn't heard any noise indicating a dog fight, McLeod-Everette became suspicious Jake might have been attacked by a wolf. When she called her veterinarian and described the dog's wounds, the vet said they were consistent with a wolf attack.
In addition, McLeod-Everette said Jake acted very strangely after the incident.
"He didn't want to go out, and when he went out the door his hackles were raised the whole time he was outside," she said. "He won't go beyond the porch light."
When McLeod-Everette mentioned the incident to some neighbors, they too said their dogs had been acting strangely at different times and large dog-like tracks were also found in the area, she said.
Then on Saturday, another dog off Becker Ridge Road disappeared after acting strangely and running into the woods to chase something. After the dog failed to return, the owner, an experienced hunter, tracked the dog and found "an abundance of wolf tracks" in the area near his home, Seaton said. The dog owner believes the dog was killed by a wolf.
"All those things put together, it makes sense there's a wolf up there," said McLeod-Everette, adding that she has lived there since 1984 and never seen a wolf.
Though she's had experience dealing with wolves in the wild, McLeod-Everette said the attack near her house took her by surprise.
"It's always in the back of your mind when you live on the periphery somewhere like Alaska that something like that could happen," she said. "But to have it happen as fast as it did ... We were all out there. My husband was outside bringing in wood, and I was out calling the dog."
Judging from the reports he's heard, Seaton said it appears the wolf on Chena Ridge is traveling alone and has been in the area about six weeks.
Wolf sightings along Chena Hot Springs Road, meanwhile, have basically fallen off the radar since Dec. 16 when someone shot at and wounded a wolf near 10 Mile as it was attempting to kill his dog, Seaton said.
A wolf that was hanging around some residential homes near Grange Hall Road near 21 Mile was trapped and killed on Jan. 26 by a trapper in Two Rivers, but that has been the only report of wolf activity in the area, he said.