Aggressive wolves spark fear in Port Heiden

Posted: Wednesday, December 08, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Mayor Scott Anderson doesn't travel around his small town of Port Heiden unarmed. Neither do his neighbors.

That's because hungry wolves have been wandering into town in search of food, sneaking into yards and snatching dogs and cats.

More evidence of that was found Tuesday morning. A pool of blood was discovered on a village road, and Anderson said you could see where wolves dragged the animal away.

Another dog had been killed.

It is hunger that is bringing the wolves to this town of about 100 people. While wolves have sneaked into Port Heiden for food before, it is usually just one or two of the animals, and they arrive at night.

This is different. These wolves are bold and hard to scare off. Sometimes they just sit and stare.

Now, the wolves are showing up during the day. And residents are scared.

The wolves could be descending on Port Heiden for several reasons. Perhaps it's because the dwindling number of caribou in the area tend to gather near the town to find protection from predators. It could be because now that the bears are gone, wolves are feeding on the carcasses of walrus and other marine mammals that wash ashore near Port Heiden.

At least three packs of wolves have been bothering the town. The largest pack is made up of about 20 animals; the others have between seven and 15 wolves.

Immediate action needs to be taken, Anderson said. The town, about 425 miles southwest of Anchorage, wants the Alaska Department of Fish & Game to allow aircraft to be used to track and kill the aggressive wolves.

A Fish and Game area biologist held a town meeting in Port Heiden on Monday.

"The strange thing is the number of wolves they are reporting," said region supervisor Bruce Dale. He said Fish and Game is coming up with an action plan.

In the meantime, everyone in Port Heiden is armed - even the mayor, who travels the town on a four-wheeler with a rifle strapped on the back.

"You won't see anybody walking around without a gun around here," said lifelong Port Heiden resident James Christensen, 45. "You could open any car door in this town and you will see a rifle sitting on the seat."

Wolves coming into Port Heiden have residents thinking about what occurred in the village of Chignik Lake last March: A teacher out jogging was killed by two hungry wolves.

Port Heiden residents in recent weeks have killed about six wolves, and they were skinny animals with sucked-in stomachs, Christensen said.

He said his dogs were barking Monday night so looked outside his house and found one of his dogs cowering in the corner of the door, wanting in.

There were wolf tracks all around his home in the new snow, he said.

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