There have been reports of wolves, like the one shown in this public domain image, near the Mendenhall River Community School in early June, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game hasn’t received any reports of wolves being a nuisance, said a state biologist. (Milo Weiler / Unsplash)

There have been reports of wolves, like the one shown in this public domain image, near the Mendenhall River Community School in early June, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game hasn’t received any reports of wolves being a nuisance, said a state biologist. (Milo Weiler / Unsplash)

Not-so-dire wolf: Animal sighting near school not necessarily cause for concern, says biologist

Its presence on a road in daylight is unusual, but not unheard of.

A video shared on a Juneau-oriented social media site showed what appeared to be a wolf trotting down the road near Mendenhall River Community School. That’s not necessarily a cause for concern or even surprise, said an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist.

“It is common to have wolves on the outskirts of Juneau,” said ADF&G area biologist Roy Churchwell in an email. “Not unheard of, but it is less common to have one that folks can see readily in the daylight walking paved roads.”

[Two Juneau residents arrested for drugs at airport]

The department has no reports of damage by wolves to human property or pets, Churchwell said, though residents are welcome to report sightings to the department at (907) 465-4265.

“We would be especially interested in animals acting aggressive or causing damage, but we keep track of all reports,” Churchwell.

As with Juneau’s bear population, not leaving animal food out or pets unattended can reduce the risk of encountering wolves.

“That goes for all of Juneau all of the time, but especially when a wolf is observed in the area,” Churchwell said. “Also, like bears, an electric fence around chickens and other farm animals will deter them.”

Feeding wolves, which increases the risk of habituation, is illegal, Churchwell said. Wolves in Southeast Alaska tend to be darker and smaller than wolves in the northern part of the state. Male wolves in the interior range from 85 to 115 pounds, making them larger than most dogs, according to ADF&G.

If you see a wolf

“If someone does spot a wolf it is similar to a bear in some respects except you should be more aggressive if it doesn’t back down and leave,” Churchwell said.

— Make noise, use an airhorn

— Don’t run, stare at it and act aggressive, shout and throw sticks (also your bear spray will work)

— If you are with others, group together

— If the animal continues to approach, stand your ground and fight with any means possible

“Within Juneau it is illegal (to hunt wolves) because you cannot hunt big game there under state regulations,” Churchwell said. “It would also be illegal to use a firearm there under Juneau City and Borough regulations. Wolf season is currently closed, the season runs from August 1 – April 30.”

All game taken in defense of life or property becomes the property of the state, according to the Alaska legal code, and all of the animal — including the claws, skull and fur — must be surrendered. It is legal to defend oneself or property as long as the necessity for the taking is not brought about by harassment or provocation of the animal, such as following it, and as long as all other efforts to protect life and property before resorting to killing are exhausted.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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