State unleashes hunters on aggressive wolves near village

AERIAL HUNT: State responds to Port Heiden's safety concerns.

December 8, 2010 

State officials have approved a plan for the aerial shooting of wolves that have killed pets and scared residents in and near Port Heiden.

The plan was approved after the Alaska Peninsula community appealed to the state for help with three wolf packs that have been killing pets and are becoming increasingly bold around humans. The wolves pose a threat to the town, public safety and wildlife officials said.

The wolf-killing operation was to begin immediately. Pilots under contract with the agencies were already in Port Heiden, trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said Wednesday.

The hungry wolves have killed five dogs and two cats, including two dogs recently. While they mostly come into town at night, the wolves also have been seen during the day.

Port Heiden Mayor Scott Anderson said he welcomed the help: "We sure don't want to lose nobody," he said.

He also said the village doesn't want to lose any more pets.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Joseph Masters said the wolves would be killed as quickly as possible in a coordinated effort. The plan was to back-trail wolf tracks to locate the animals that have been involved in incidents in the village.

The operation will involve fixed-wing aircraft and pilots under contract with the two agencies, said Bruce Dale, the Department of Fish and Game's area supervisor. He said shooters most likely will be department employees.

The exact number of wolves involved in the attacks on dogs and cats in the town was not known, but residents have reported three packs with anywhere from seven to 20 animals.

"The frequency, aggressive nature, and number of wolves involved in the attacks is unacceptable from a public safety standpoint," said Lem Butler, Fish and Game's area biologist in King Salmon.

Butler flew to the community Monday afternoon to gather information on the wolf attacks.

Residents say wolves previously have come into Port Heiden looking for food, but not in these numbers. They report that the half dozen wolves killed in recent months by residents were skinny.

The situation has residents scared and thinking about what occurred in the village of Chignik Lake, another Alaska Peninsula town, in March: A teacher out jogging was killed by two hungry wolves.

Dale said the Port Heiden situation was serious.

"We will take out any wolves we can link to incidents in the village," he said.

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