This post is dedicated specifically to a wolf, Romeo, the lone black wolf of Juneau, Alaska. There is a reason to speak about one wolf rather than a wolf population or at least a pack: Romeo was a famous wolf: approachable and, at the same time, a wild and free wolf.

Who was Romeo

Romeo was a black wolf living in the Mendenhall Valley near Juneau (AK), known for his interactions with dogs and people. He was an Alexander Archipelago Wolf (Canis lupus ligoni) who lived around Mendenhall Glacier between 2000 and 2009.

Romeo was a member of a pack of 13 culled by the Fish & Game Department. Only two wolves survived, Romeo and a female. There was the hope for a new pack in Mendenhall Valley, and the female was pregnant of four… unfortunately was hit and killed by a car. The female, named Juliette, was stuffed and mounted in the glacier’s visitor’s center. Romeo, now left alone, stayed in Mendenhall Valley.

Romeo and dogs

While other wolves are shy and avoid humans, Romeo was in needs to socialize. He was approachable by people and this is the reason why there are so many portrait pictures of him. But he was mainly known because was dog friendly. He used to play with dogs brought for walks around Mendenhall Lake and West Glacier Trail. Many gave one’s own accounts on the web.

Juneau resident Nick Jans, an avid naturalist and wildlife photographer, shared an abundance of experiences with Romeo over the years since they met.

The wolf took a liking to Jans’ dogs and quickly became a regular playmate.

“He developed a huge crush on our female lab, Dakotah, and that’s how he got his name,” Jans said. “He would hang around our back door and sometimes be waiting in our yard. My wife Sherrie said, ‘There’s that Romeo wolf again.’ The name stuck.”

Romeo was never reported as showing aggression toward a person, though a 2007 incident with a pug raised some concern among community members. Jans witnessed Romeo take the pug in his mouth and begin to run off with it, but he described the wolf’s behavior as more playful than aggressive.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMFUI9Em_Ik]

 

Killing of Romeo and trial

The last sighting of Romeo was on September 18, 2009. Other times in the past years Romeo disappeared for months, and in 2006 he was supposed dead. In fact troopers arrested two poachers for killing and disposing a black wolf, but it ended up not being Romeo.

But between September 18 and 19, 2009 something happened to him.  He disappeared and was never seen again. On May 25, 2010, troopers arrested two men for unlawfully killing a black wolf and two bears.

During the trial the pelt of a black wolf was exposed, and the wolf identified as Romeo. Park Mayers sentenced to 330 days in jail (all suspended), $12500 fine and more, and his hunting license is suspended (only for the duration of his probation).

Jeffrey Peacock sentence to six months of jail (all suspended), $5,000 fine and three years probation.

Memorial

Romeo was the town’s beloved mascot, and many people mourned for him. Friends of Romeo and other local citizens organized a memorial ceremony. They spoke about Romeo and erected a plaque to remember him.