October 31, 2007
Juneau, Alaska – A wolf from a pack that killed six dogs in Marshall
last week has tested positive for rabies.
Tests performed by the Alaska State Virology Laboratory (ASVL) confirmed
the 17 month old female wolf was positive for rabies virus.
The pack entered Marshall last Thursday, October 25 and killed three adult
dogs and three pups in one dog yard. One wolf was killed and several others
may have been wounded by residents of the village. Alaska Department of
Fish and Game (ADF&G) Wildlife Veterinarian Kimberlee Beckmen said it is
possible other wolves in the pack have the disease as well.
“Rabies virus is present in saliva, and when several animals eat from the
same source, the virus can be quickly spread to other members of the pack,”
Dr. Beckmen said. “However, rabies is extremely rare in wolves in Alaska.”
No humans were injured by the wolves in Marshall. The people who came in
contact with the rabid wolf when it was killed, skinned, and necropsied are
being evaluated to determine if they were exposed to rabies virus.
Several dogs were bitten by wolves from the same pack. The Alaska
Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Division of Public Health (DPH)
advises dog owners in Marshall that if their dogs were previously
vaccinated to have them revaccinated immediately, and then confine and
observe them for 45 days to make sure they don’t come down with the
Unvaccinated dogs that were exposed to the wolves run a very high risk of
developing rabies in the next few weeks and can expose other animals and
people. The DPH strongly recommends that unvaccinated dogs be euthanized to
prevent the risk of spreading the rabies virus to people or other animals.
Dog owners in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta with questions or concerns should
contact the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation Office of Environmental
Health (OEH) at (907) 543-6420. OEH personnel are identifying and locating
all dogs known to have been exposed to the wolves. State Veterinarian Dr.
Robert Gerlach has contacted veterinarians in the region to enlist their
assistance as well.
Only 18 wolves have tested positive for the disease in Alaska since 1977.
The last confirmed case occurred in 1998 in a wolf from the Dillingham
area. The disease is more commonly found in foxes in coastal areas, and
some 35 animals have tested positive for rabies since 2006, along the west
coast and North Slope of Alaska. As a result, efforts were made to
vaccinate dogs in several Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages in 2007.
Rabies is spread when saliva from an infected animal comes into contact
with another person or animal. Trappers are not normally exposed to the
disease when skinning infected animals, but should be careful not to allow
saliva or salivary glands to come in contact with open wounds.
In an unrelated incident, a pet dog was killed by wolves in North Pole
Wednesday morning. The owner, who lives near the Chena Lakes Recreation
Area, let two dogs outside before 5:00 am, and one, a 15 year old Labrador
Retriever, was killed. ADF&G spokeswoman Cathie Harms said that it does not
appear to be a case of wolves searching for dogs for food.
“From the tracks, it looks like it was entirely coincidental that the
wolves and the dogs were in the same area. There’s no evidence the wolves
tracked or stalked the dogs as prey, they just ran into them,” Harms said.
“It’s not unusual for pets to be taken by wolves, especially when people
live on the outskirts of town in wolf habitat.”
Rabies has never been reported in any wildlife species in Interior Alaska
and is not considered a threat in the North Pole incident.