Wolf Packs in Siberia Bring State of Emergency ; Regional Authorities Offer Big Bounties after Livestock Is Killed

Article excerpt

In the far north, hunters take to the woods to collect high bounties on the hides of hungry wolves who are ravaging domesticated livestock because their natural prey is scarce..

A region in Siberia has declared a state of emergency because of an explosion this winter in its population of wolves.

The governor, Yegor A. Borisov, told Russian news agencies that extraordinary measures were needed: Packs have taken to prowling at the edges of villages in the area, called Sakha-Yakutia, eating livestock including horses and domesticated reindeer.

They are slinking near towns such as Verkhoyansk, far above the Arctic Circle, where the mayor told a regional newspaper he had organized a hunting party to kill as many wolves as possible.

"Our hunters killed more than half the pack," the mayor, Mikhail Osipov said.

"Those that survived are again threatening the horses." They, too, will be shot at the first opportunity, he said.

Russian wolf hunters generally shoot the animals with shotguns while riding on snowmobiles, which can outpace the wolves in thick winter snow. Traps are sometimes used. Poisoning was outlawed in 2005.

They hunt for a pelt bounty, in effect in many regions of Siberia, which in Yakutia this winter was set at $660 per adult wolf pelt and less, $50, for the skin of a cub.

The governor, Mr. Borisov, announced the organization of region- wide hunting parties to take to the forests next Tuesday. Otherwise, the state of emergency was largely symbolic and intended to draw attention to the problem, experts on Russia's wolf population said.

Far from worrying about wolf conservation, as is the case, though controversially, in parts of the Western United States, the thinly populated region of Yakutia, and much of the rest of Russia too, grapples with a perennial problem of excessive predation by wolves.

In announcing the state of emergency, the regional government said wolves killed about 16,000 domesticated reindeer last year and 313 horses. The wolf population was about 3,500 breeding pairs, the government said, while ideally it should not exceed 500.

In Russia, a country with many enthusiastic hunters and lots of open space, only the most charismatic of predators -- the Amur snow tigers, for example -- are accorded much protection. Hunters without controversy cull wolves and bears by the hundreds.

Along with the regionwide bounty in Yakutia, some municipalities have promised additional incentives for killing wolves. The city of Verkhoyansk, for example, offers an additional $300 per dead wolf. …

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