ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Poppy Harris had a case of 'I told you so' after a wolf entered a logging camp near Yakutat and attacked a young child.
''We have always been leery of wolves because we knew it could happen,'' said Harris, tribal council administrator in the Interior community of McGrath.
The attack on 6-year-old John Stenglein has sides lining up once again in the battle over whether Alaska needs state-run wolf control.
Gov. Tony Knowles, opposed to such a program without strong public support, won't change his position because of Wednesday's attack at the Icy Bay logging camp, said Bob King, the governor's spokesman.
''This is a highly rare incident,'' King said. ''Just because you have one isolated incident doesn't necessarily prompt policy change.''
The logging-camp attack has state wildlife biologists and wolf experts scratching their heads, especially since the animal was not rabid. Wolf experts can't remember another incident in Alaska when a non-rabid wolf attacked.
Wolves tend to be wary and steer clear of humans, but this animal had been hanging around the logging camp since 1998.
Stenglein was playing with 9-year-old Keith Gamble and his dog at the camp Wednesday morning when the wolf attacked, said Mike Thompson, Gamble's father.
Thompson says he knows why the wolf attacked the boy.
''He was getting lunch,'' Thompson said. ''He was just trying to get Johnny and take him out to the brush for lunch.''
The boys were playing near some alders when the wolf approached and began growling. The children ran and the wolf chased them, knocking both to the ground, Thompson said. The wolf bit the younger boy on the buttocks before clamping down hard on his back.
''He finally picked him up off the ground and started to head to the brush,'' Thompson said.
Thompson's wife, Teresa, who saw the attack, said the wolf tried to run off, but the child was too heavy.
Rocks were thrown at the wolf and he was driven off. Thompson used a rabbit-in-distress call to bring him back into the camp. He killed the wolf with one shot between the eyes.
''He came right in without hesitation,'' Thompson said. ''He didn't have any fear.''
The boy was treated at a local clinic. He needed about a half-dozen stitches to close the puncture wounds. The most serious wound was torn flesh on his back.
Legislators revived the long-running wolf control issue this session. Residents of the McGrath area testified that hungry wolves were killing too many moose and coming into town and attacking dogs. They said they were afraid for their children.
This month the Legislature overrode a governor's veto and approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, allowing for land-and-shoot hunting of wolves in certain areas. The governor denounced the move, saying it goes against a 1996 citizen's initiative banning the practice.
Kelly said the governor has turned his back on McGrath residents and other Alaskans living in rural areas where wolves are a problem.
''They said, 'Look, we're afraid one of our kids is going to be attacked,''' Kelly said. ''Now what they have said has come true.'''
King said the governor wants to know more about the attack before he considers changing his position. Was a radio control collar on the animal so tight it was having trouble eating? Had it become habituated to humans? Did the children or the dog provoke it?
An investigation by Alaska State Troopers indicates the collar wasn't too tight, the wolf wasn't being fed and the boys weren't antagonizing it.
''It is really very strange the way this wolf behaved,'' said Matt Robus, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.
Robus said a necropsy will be done on what's left of the wolf's body in hopes of learning more. The body was partially burned at the Yakutat landfill before being retrieved. Given its condition, Robus is not certain what kinds of tests can be done.
Wolf expert Victor VanBallenberghe, who headed a research group that collared the wolf in March 1996, also said the attack is strange.
''I am not aware of a single case in Alaska where a non-rabid wolf bit a human being,'' said VanBallenberghe, a former Forest Service biologist. ''Many wolves are absolutely terrified of people.''
More attention should be paid to the role of the dog, he said. It's possible the wolf was after the dog initially and the situation escalated.
''Wolves treat dogs as trespassers in their territory,'' he said.
Only two wolf attacks in Alaska history have been fatal and in both cases the wolves were rabid, said Don Ritter, manager of the State Virology Lab in Fairbanks, which conducted the rabies test.
An Eskimo trapper was attacked by a rabid wolf in 1942 near Noorvik in northwest Alaska. The following year a youngster gathering ice near the North Slope village of Wainwright was bitten.
Paul Joslin, executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, said there has to be a reason why the wolf was hanging around the camp.
''This is very strange wolf behavior,'' said Joslin, who has studied wolves on and off for decades. ''There should be no reason for him to hang around a camp.''
Joslin said the attack is an isolated event.
''It would be very sad if it was to define wolf control for the state of Alaska,'' he said.
Thompson, who has four children, said just because one wolf behaved this way doesn't mean they all should be condemned. He's much more concerned about bears that have charged people.
''That's a more prevalent danger,'' he said. ''I have never actually seen the wolves in camp before.''
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