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AK: Some suspect ex-local hunter killed beloved Alaskan wolf

June 1, 2010

Some suspect ex-local hunter killed beloved Alaskan wolf

Romeo, the handsome black wolf that became a symbol of Juneau, Alaska.

Romeo was the most famous wolf in Alaska, a state that has many wild canines.

For six years, the uncommon, black-phase gray wolf hung out around Mendenhall Glacier near the capital city of Juneau, roughhousing with dogs and following hikers.

He even had his own fan club and his story was told on National Public Radio.

The wolf, however, mysteriously disappeared last fall and many accusing fingers are being pointed at a former Mount Joy Borough man.

Alaska State Police 12 days ago arrested Park H. Myers III, 40, of Juneau, formerly of Mount Joy, and a friend, Jeffrey Peacock, 46, of Lebanon, for illegally killing a black wolf around the time Romeo disappeared. They also were cited for illegally killing two black bears.

Myers, an ardent hunter and trapper who moved to Juneau about five years ago, is charged with taking big game (the wolf) by unlawful methods, baiting bears without a permit and three counts of unlawful possession of game.

Peacock, described as a friend, was arrested for unsworn falsification, taking big game in a closed area, baiting bears without a permit and three counts of unlawful possession of game. Both have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. Both are free on bail.

According to a police affidavit, Myers told a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent that he shot a wolf on Sept. 22 on the Eagle River Trail, an area about 10 miles from where Romeo was last seen.

Myers told the agent he "panicked" when he realized the wolf might be Romeo. Peacock agreed to claim he was the shooter when the wolf was taken to a state checking station, according to the affidavit.

That way, Myers, a Juneau resident, wouldn't be reviled by his fellow residents, Aaron Frenzel, a wildlife trooper with the Alaska Department of Public Safety, suggested in an interview Tuesday. Wolf season was open at the time, but Myers used a small-caliber rifle - a .22-caliber rimfire rifle - not a more powerful centerfire rifle as required by law, Frenzel said.

The two hunters also were charged with hunting violations for setting bait sites to attract bears in an area that was closed to baiting, Frenzel said.

A pelt of a black wolf was recovered from an area taxidermist the men took the carcass to, Frenzel said.

Is it Romeo?

State troopers have not permitted the pelt, which is evidence, to be publicly examined, but Frenzel said "that's quite possible at a later date."

"I know it would bring closure to the community, so we may do that," he said.

Harry Robinson, founding member of Friends of Romeo, said Romeo had distinctive markings, such as scarring down the base of his neck and upper back that would make identification possible.

Robinson told the Juneau Empire newspaper that he was "100 percent sure" the wolf Myers shot was Romeo. Robinson also said he had uncontaminated samples of Romeo's fur that might make possible a DNA test.

After his arraignment on May 25, Myers strongly denied that the wolf was Romeo.

"You'd be a complete moron if you thought that wolf was Romeo," he told the Juneau Empire reporter. "A complete moron. I know a gray wolf from a black one. I know a 70-pound wolf from a 140-pound wolf."

Efforts to contact Myers through his parents were unsuccessful.

Frenzel said the area where the wolf was shot is about 10 miles from where Romeo was frequently seen.

Romeo was first noticed in 2003 around Mendenhall Glacier, about 13 miles outside of Juneau, a city of 31,000.

The regal, mature wolf estimated last year to be 7 or 8 years old and 140 pounds, was always alone. He frequently approached people and their dogs on the frozen Mendenhall Lake. Some hiked with him almost daily.

There were many encounters during which Romeo would play with dogs, sometimes jumping straight up in the air and playing tug of war, according to accounts in Alaska. On occasion, the wolf would be bitten but not retaliate. He apparently liked being chased by other canines.

But he was known on at least several occasions to grab and carry smaller dogs in his mouth before dropping them and was a suspect in the disappearance of a beagle and Pomeranian.

Romeo was last sighted on Sept. 18, four days before Myers said he shot a wolf.

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