There are a lot of unexpected things that happen in Alaska, more than one can expect. For instance, yesterday I was happy that finally all the snow on our driveway was gone and this morning I woke up to a new load of snow in the driveway. When walking on snow with pumps one should expect to slip, but I did not, but nearly as the OOTD photos evidence. Now to the unexpected expected wolf story.
Wildlife alerts in the email
The University of Alaska campus is located at the western part of College – a community near Fairbanks. To the west there is a large permafrost area behind a little hill or one could count this hill also as an elongation of the West Ridge. To the North is the Large Animal Farm with musk oxen, and reindeers. To the South are the fields of the Experimental Farm and the Botanical Garden. The buildings on campus are more or less build along a road that could also be described as a loop. There are parking lots to the North and South. On the West Ridge of campus, there is an entrance to the university maintained ski trails that are also used by the Fairbanks community.
Ever since I joined the university, it happened on a regular basis. This email popping up in your box with capital letters ALERT! I recall two bear alert saying that there is a bear in the parking lot. Of course that happens just around end of business, right. I remember countless moose alerts. Why are moose dangerous? Their hooves can kill you. Moose get very dangerous when you by accident happen to get between a moose cow and her calf or calves. Three weeks ago there was a wolf alert. Someone had used the nice spring weather for cross-country skiing during the lunch break and seen a wolf near Smith Lake, which is west of campus. Skiers have to pass the lake as the 6 miles loop crosses it.
A week later, another email alert came saying that the wolf was seen again. Then someone replied that it is not a wolf, but two coyotes near Ballaine Lake. This lake is north of campus and also part of the ski trails. Next came an email saying coyotes are smaller than wolves and that there are several coyotes near that lake and that there are at least two wolves in the area.
Ignoring the wolves
This email was on a Monday. On Mondays, parents drop their kids off in the entrance hall of the western most building on campus in the early evening. The kids then go cross country skiing under the guidance of a coach.
I was on my way home and just leaving the building when a mom came to drop off her kids. I held the door open so they could enter with their skiing equipment. An about ten year old boy blocked them off to use the open door to get out.
“Be careful. There are wolves on the trails” I said to the boy. He gave me this look that said “I am invincible, I will never die.” The mom of the two other kids said “we will be fine, we are in a group.” I looked at the woman and said “I don’t worry about you, but the boy who just went out. Look he is walking straight towards the trail and not waiting for the group.” “He will learn” the woman said. “Or not” I responded and she laughed “the worst thing is that they would kill the wolves because of his ignorance.”
I looked at the Daily Newsminer in the next two days. Obviously, the boy was lucky. There was no report of a boy missing or being eaten by wolves.
Wolves hunt bikers
A couple of years ago, there was an article about a man who rode his bicycle on the Alacan. He was part of a group, but had separated from them. A wolf started hunting him. An oncoming driver saw this hunt from far and stopped his car and opened the door. When the bike was at the height of the car the biker made it barely into the car. The driver even had the nerve to take a photo of the wolf trying to bite into the wheels.
Wolves hunt dogs
Also a couple of years ago, wolves had moved into the North Pole area, a little town southeast of Fairbanks. Since there are not many moose in town the wolves hunted pet dogs and killed quite a few. They became quite a problem. Some people said that it was due to the air hunting of wolves. This term refers to people being on a plane and shooting wolves so that the wolf population is small which means more moose survives which again means that there is more moose for human hunters. You can imagine that this practice is very controversially discussed in Alaska.
Are you afraid of wolves? Which email would you find scariest? A bear or moose in the parking lot when you want to go home? Or wolves and coyotes on your favorite ski trail?
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Photos: G. Kramm
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