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Black wolf's identity still unknown

Posted: Thursday, June 10, 2010

Almost three weeks after authorities arrested two suspects in the illegal shooting of a wolf thought by some residents to be Romeo, there's still no positive identification the animal was indeed Juneau's beloved black wolf.

"I can't say with any certainty right now if this is the wolf people called Romeo," Alaska State Troopers Lt. Steve Hall said.

He said the hide, which was confiscated at a taxidermy shop and is being held as evidence, is "primarily black."

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Aaron Frenzel, an investigating officer who has seen the hide and pictures of it, said it is a black wolf with some gray markings.

Officials have no immediate plans to try identity the wolf using DNA samples, but that remains a future possibility, Frenzel said.

"There's really no reason to confirm right now whether it is or it is not (Romeo)," he said. "It's just an illegally taken wolf."

Juneau resident Park Myers and his Pennsylvania friend, Jeffrey Peacock, were arrested May 25 and charged with several wildlife violations involving the killing of a wolf and two black bear.

Friends of Romeo founder Harry Robinson said the group is planning a memorial service for the animal but will wait to schedule it until court proceedings are complete.

Robinson said he is "99 percent sure" Romeo is dead. He has been close to the investigation but would not elaborate about why he felt so sure.

Romeo was an unusually sociable wolf that lived in the Mendenhall Lake area and became known by many residents and their dogs. He disappeared last fall.

Robinson has received hundreds of inquiries - some from around the world - about a memorial for the animal, which was romanticized by many residents and visitors who had contact with it.

According to court records, Myers said he shot a wolf last fall around the time Romeo disappeared, panicked after realizing it could be the famous wolf, and decided with his friend that Peacock would take the credit since Myers feared retaliation from the community.

The men also are charged for the illegal killing of two black bear in May.

According to court records, the men allegedly established an illegal bait station near Mile 36 out the road. Investigating officers reported hearing a gun shot on May 14 in the area and then observed the men loading a small black bear into the back of their truck.

Under questioning six days later, Myers said he looked at state regulations and called the state Department of Fish and Game to make sure he hunted legally. The department does not issue permits to bait bear in that game management unit.

Myers said he started the bait site with loaves of bread and pastries two weeks before Peacock arrived from Pennsylvania to make it easier for Peacock to get a bear, according to the records. They saw one at about 10:30 a.m. and Myers allegedly shot it with a Browning .338 rifle. Myers said he forgot to validate his 2010 black bear harvest tag, the records say.

Peacock allegedly used the site by himself, using honey as bait. He is also implicated in the killing of a black bear on the beach near the Shrine of St. Therese in 2009, allegedly shooting that bear with a pistol while Myers waited in the truck. Both men allegedly gutted the bear and pulled it up to the road with a rope attached to the truck, later taking it to Myers' house, according to court records.

Parks was arrested on charges of taking big game by unlawful methods, baiting bears without a permit and three counts of unlawful possession of game.

Peacock was arrested on charges of taking big game in a closed area, baiting bears without a permit, three counts of unlawful possession of game and unsworn falsification of statements.

The men pleaded not guilty and were released on bail.

Neither man has a prior record involving wildlife violations.

Parks in 1999 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of corruption of minors and selling or furnishing to minors in a Lancaster County, Penn. He served four years probation.

Peacock was convicted of driving while intoxicated in Pennsylvania.

Wildlife-related charges against the men are misdemeanors, each punishable by up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. A pre-trial hearing is set for July 19.

District Attorney Doug Gardner declined to say what level of punishment he would pursue or what punishment is typical in wildlife violations cases.

A 2006 case involving an illegal wolf kill where the carcass was dumped along Thane Road resulted in a $500 fine and one year of probation for Juneau resident Troy Portis, who pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts.

Some community members initially thought that wolf was Romeo, and a reward for information leading to an arrest quickly grew to more than $15,000. The anonymous tipster never collected the money.

Also in 2006, Roy Claassen, whose taxidermy shop the recent black wolf hide was found in, was ordered to pay $1,900 in restitution, received two years of probation and had his hunting privileges suspended for two years after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of illegal taking of a brown bear, two counts of possessing illegal game and two counts of making false statements in a case that involved the killing of one black bear and one brown bear in 2005.

Claassen, according to court records, skinned the wolf and rugged a bear for Myers and Peacock. He has not been charged in that case.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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