Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, May 28, 2007

Rabid fox killed after it attacks two dogs

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ANCHORAGE - A red fox that attacked two dogs in Nome has tested positive for rabies, Alaska State Troopers said Saturday.

The owner of one of the dogs beat the fox to death with a branch to break up the May 18 attack, which occurred in an area known as West Beach west of the main part of town, troopers said.

Both dogs had been vaccinated and appear to be fine, said wildlife enforcement trooper Brian Miller. Both of the dog owners live in the area. Because the area is isolated, the dogs are not being quarantined as usual, Miller said.

At the time of the incident, the owner of one of the dogs was visiting the other dog's owner. The dogs were outside when the fox approached and attacked them, Miller said.

Because the fox's aggressiveness deviated from the animal's usually shy behavior, Miller suspected something was wrong and sent the carcass to the state environmental health office.

His suspicions were confirmed Saturday when he learned the fox had rabies.

Miller said it's the second local case of fox rabies in the past three months that he knows of.

Study looks at plunge in sockeye returns

ANCHORAGE - A state-private effort is studying the seemingly diminished sockeye salmon returns to the Susitna River drainage over a three-year period.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has teamed up with the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association to try to get a precise count of returns to help plot future management. The $1.75 million tag-and-recapture study is being conducted throughout the Susitna drainage.

The state makes estimates based on sonar counts at the drainage's Yentna River, which has failed to return enough salmon to meet biologists' minimum goals in three of the last five years. During the same period, healthy numbers of sockeyes have swarmed to the Kenai Peninsula.

The Yentna River had a record-low sonar count of 37,000 sockeyes in 2005, compared with a minimum state goal at the time of 90,000 spawners.

The results could affect commercial fishing in Cook Inlet. Some blame nets that target the Kenai's bounty for also snaring the less-plentiful sockeyes swimming farther north.

"There's no way they cannot catch our fish when they're catching Kenai and Kasilof fish," Skwentna sportfishing guide Dave McHoes said of gillnetters snaring Susitna-bound sockeyes.

The first-year numbers from 2006 show more fish swimming up the Yentna than were counted by sonar, said Gary Fandrei, executive director of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association. The Fish and Game sonar downstream on the river counted 93,000, while association staffers manning weirs at four upstream lakes found 125,500 spawners.

Troopers unit targets drunken drivers

FAIRBANKS - Alaska State Troopers have created a special unit to focus on drunken drivers in Fairbanks.

The effort expands on an earlier project by the Fairbanks Police Department.

The new enforcement team has made about 50 arrests for driving under the influence since it began last month, officials said.

The team consists of a sergeant and three troopers. They conduct patrols late at night, six nights a week, said Lt. Lonnie Piscoya.

"I think they're making their presence known," he said. "They are writing a lot of tickets. They are making a significant amount of DUI arrests."

A trooper DUI enforcement team was created in Palmer in late 2003, and plans have been under way for the Fairbanks unit for some time.

Troopers are hoping the increased enforcement will deter drunken driving, said trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters.

"The whole goal is to be out there and be visible so that we don't have DUIs," Peters said.

Woman believed dead in fish camp fire

KODIAK - The elderly matriarch of a longtime Kodiak family likely died in a fire on Friday at the family's fish camp, Alaska State Troopers said.

Wanda Fields, 86, is missing and presumed dead after the fire at the camp on Bear Island, north of Larsen Bay, caused the building to collapse.

Her son, Weston, suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to Kodiak for treatment.

The Fields family that has made its mark in fisheries policy, literature, local sports and biblical scholarship.

Weston Fields is the executive director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation in Jerusalem, which publishes and cares for the ancient documents.

Another son, Wallace, was also at the cabin and reported the fire, according to trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters in Anchorage.

The cause of the fire is unknown and troopers are investigating, Peters said.

Jury convicts man of drug conspiracy

ANCHORAGE - A federal jury has convicted an Anchorage man of conspiring to ship drugs from California to Alaska.

Brando Hall, 31, was found guilty Wednesday of drug conspiracy, attempted possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and maintaining a drug involved-premises.

Hall faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors said. He could be sentenced to life in prison.

According to prosecutors, the Pasadena Police Department in February intercepted a package on its way to Alaska that contained a space heater with more than 6 pounds of cocaine hidden in the back.

Hall's sentencing is scheduled for August.

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