Wolf encounters rare, caution still urged

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2010

The deadly wolf attack on a Chignik Bay woman earlier this month might have been rare, but, wildlife biologists warned that staying vigilant in the outdoors around any wildlife remains a good habit.

Jeff Selinger, the area wildlife management biologist for the Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna, said he estimates there are 150 to 200 wolves living on the Kenai Peninsula, what he described as a "healthy population."

While the department used to do extensive counts with radio tracking back in the 1990's, Selinger said funding for the expensive programs hasn't been available for this area in recent years.

Population estimates are often based on what the biologists see while tracking other animals or hear from trappers.

For the Central Peninsula Area they recently counted 40 to 45 wolves in Game Management Unit 15A, an area north of the Kenai River and generally west of the Kenai Mountains.

He said wolf populations in that area have likely remained steady over the past decade.

He said the animals tend to avoid human population centers and have fewer negative interactions with people than do brown bears. They can cover great distances in a short amount of time and occasionally are seen near Soldotna and Kenai.

Selinger said that those living farther out in Kasilof, Funny River or Nikiski might see them near their homes and attractants like dog food or garbage could bring them to their doorstep.

He said that he had never heard of any wolf attacks on the Kenai Peninsula, but noted that just because he hadn't heard of them didn't mean they couldn't occur.

He said however that he had doubts wolves here would be as brazen as a pack near Anchorage that killed several dogs and surrounded a group of joggers near Anchorage in late 2007.

Nonetheless he recommended people keep their senses about them.

"So far they've kept their distance but people should not take them for granted. People need to be aware of their surroundings," he said. "The chance of a negative interaction is rare but it is possible."

He encouraged people to contact him if they spot wolves or have any type of interaction at 262-9368.

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com

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