Wolves kill two dogs near their owners in Anchorage

Aggressive attacks alarm city residents

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2007

ANCHORAGE - When Kim Hubert and his wife returned to the spot where her dog Buddy was snatched by a wolf, there was little left.

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The Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever was about 30 feet behind Lisa, when Lisa heard Buddy bark a couple of times. She turned to see what she thought was either a wolf or large dog carrying off the 9-year-old dog they'd had since he was a puppy, Kim Hubert said Tuesday.

The Eagle River couple returned the next morning. All that remained was the dog's head and collar, found Thursday about 50 yards off the dark, gravel road on Fort Richardson, where Lisa had been walking with Buddy.

"I went out with her and we found some tracks and eventually a drop of blood here and there," Hubert said.

The couple then found three sites where either one or more wolves had fed on Buddy.

"She is pretty sad, pretty shook up," Hubert said. "That is her running friend. He was always ready to go... He had to get ambushed in my mind."

Buddy was the second dog killed by wolves in recent weeks in Anchorage as their owners walked them, said Rick Sinnott, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Fish and Game.

While wolves killing dogs is not that unusual - a wolf pack near Fairbanks has killed at least three dogs in the past six weeks - the brazen nature of the Anchorage attacks is worrisome, Sinnott said. On another occasion, a border collie walking with its owner on the Beach Lake trail system fought briefly with a wolf. The wolf was then joined by another wolf and trailed the two for several minutes. The dog was not injured.

Last Saturday, a woman was walking two dogs on Elmendorf Air Force Base, where she reported three wolves followed them all the way to the main road.

"They do seem to have lost a little bit of wariness to people," Sinnott said. "Wolves have an inbred fear of people."

Wildlife officials believe one pack, called the Elmendorf pack, appears to be the one attacking dogs. The air force base is adjacent to Fort Richardson.

Officials said the pack consists of one black wolf and as many as five gray wolves.

The first fatal attack occurred in late November as Kirsten Kidd and Terry Crane were walking their three dogs near Eklutna on the northern edge of the municipality. The two said that a large black wolf stepped onto the trail about 50 yards ahead of them.

It was then that Kidd's pointer mix, Shelby, took off after the wolf, disappearing with the other dogs into tall grass and trees bordering the Eklutna River Flats.

The dogs soon reappeared with eight to 10 wolves close behind, the couple said. Within seconds one of the dogs screamed, and Kidd knew it was Shelby.

Sinnott and the couple visited the site a couple of days later. They found Shelby's badly-chewed collar in a trampled, bloodstained area about 100 yards off the trail. The only other remains were several small splinters of bone.

"Most dogs are no match for wolves. Wolves kill for a living. Most dogs don't have to kill to eat," Sinnott said.

Anchorage has four or five wolf packs, Sinnott said.

The good news is that the wolves are not hunting dogs, he said. They are looking for food, probably moose, when they happen upon a dog instead and the pack leader makes a split-moment decision.

"If you have a dog, I would have the dog on leash or at heel. I would carry a can of pepper spray," he said.

Sinnott expects trappers will take care of the problem. The trapping season for wolves in the area north of the city extends into late winter.

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