Russia: Raids by wolves spark 'emergency' in Sakha

Wolf - file pic Wolves are pests for Sakha's herders who rely on reindeer for a living

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An influx of wolves preying on reindeer herds has triggered a state of emergency in the Sakha Republic, in north-eastern Russia.

Squads of hunters will pursue the wolves in a three-month "battle" from 15 January, officials say.

The most successful hunters will get bonuses. The vast, sparsely populated region is also known as Yakutia.

Experts quoted by Russian media believe a shortage of mountain hares has caused the migration of hungry wolves.

Wolf packs have moved into Sakha's central reindeer pastures, from their normal hunting grounds in the mountains and dense forests. Reports speak of increased attacks on livestock, but not on humans.

Russia Sakha map

The wolf-hunting season has been extended to the whole year, as the target is to get the wolf population in the region down to 500 - reckoned to be the optimal number. Currently there are estimated to be more than 3,500.

There will be a "six-figure sum" for hunters who bring in the most wolf pelts - a big incentive, as 100,000 roubles (£2,043; $3,280) goes a long way in a region that is famously cold, remote and under-developed.

The emergency measures were announced by Sakha President Yegor Borisov, who heard numerous complaints about wolf attacks when he visited several villages, a statement on his website said.

The Sakha agriculture ministry says 16,111 reindeer were savaged by wolves in 2012 - a 4.3% rise on 2011. That meant a loss to reindeer herders of more than 150m roubles (£3m; $5m), as each reindeer is worth about 10,000 roubles (£205; $328).

Wolves also killed 314 domesticated horses, the Sakha authorities said.

Last year hunters killed 730 wolves in the republic.

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