No matter how friendly the lone black wolf recently spotted near the Mendenhall
Glacier seems, people should keep their distance, the local wildlife biologist
for the state Department of Fish and Game said Friday.
"Who knows the disposition of a wolf?" Neil Barten said.
Larry Musarra, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center director, said the wolf
itself doesn't pose a threat, but he is concerned that it is seems to be getting
more receptive to people.
"This lake is pretty popular, and (the wolf) seems to be getting less shy," he
Musarra said he first saw the wolf on Nov. 20. Since then he has heard lots of
reports of sightings. He also has heard it howling in the night.
Juneau resident Nick Jans, a contributing editor to Alaska Magazine who has long
observed wolves in the wild, said he has enjoyed watching this wolf. He said
he hopes people keep their distance from the wolf, but appreciate it as a "rare
experience" and not a threat to the community.
"He's truly remarkable," Jans said of the wolf, adding that he knows other people
are excited about seeing the wolf. "He's a wild animal. By choice he's making
himself accessible to people."
Jans believes the biggest danger is that people will misunderstand the wolf and
harm it. People should keep their distance, but it certainly isn't "the big bad
wolf," he said. Nearby residents shouldn't be afraid that it will eat their pets,
Barten said he sees no reason to trap the wolf, and if he relocated it, the animal
could return anyway.
"There's really nothing we can do. If it starts initiating contact with people
or pets in an aggressive manner, we'll re-evaluate," Barten said. Where it is, "the
animal is pretty safe," he added.
People can't legally hunt the wolf in its current location, he said. Trapping
is prohibited up to the top of Mount McGinnis, and hunters are prohibited from
shooting the animal within a quarter-mile of Mendenhall Lake or a half-mile from
But there is a possibility that people and their pets getting too close could
lead to a problem. If people let their dogs run up to the wolf, "sooner or later
a pet may get bitten by the animal," Barten said.
That wouldn't be good for the pet, and it wouldn't be good for the wolf, which
would have to be killed.
"I don't know if people are feeding it or not," Barten said. But he has heard
reports that the wolf has approached people.
Barten, who hadn't seen the animal when this article was prepared, said he isn't
even sure it is a wolf, although he said it is "wolf-like." The animal could
be a wolf-dog hybrid.
Jans said he is sure the Mendenhall Lake wolf is no hybrid.
"He looks 100 percent wolf," he said.
The wolf is surviving well as a hunter, with evidence that it has been subsisting
on coho salmon, beavers and rabbits.
"Killing a beaver or a rabbit is not foraging," Jans said. "This is not somebody's