A bounty was placed on wolves in a remote Siberian area after the predators killed scores of horses and reindeer.
The Sakha Republic, a vast northeastern area nearly the size of India but sparse in population, recently declared a state of emergency following a mass influx of wolves, which have been preying on reindeer herds, reported state-run RT. At the same time, it ordered more than 3,000 wolves be culled within three months.
Officials said that more than 16,000 reindeer and 300 horses were killed by wolves in 2012, adding that they accounted for some $5 million in damages.
Sakha Republic President Yegor Borisov declared that a “war on wolves” is necessary to deal with the problem, reported the state broadcaster. The “three-month blitz” on the predators would start Jan. 15, he said, according to AFP.
He called for the formation of specialized hunters to kill off the wolves, with the government providing “everything necessary” to support them.
Wolves have migrated to Sakha to eat reindeer after mountain hare populations dwindled in Russia’s taiga areas, experts believe.
Borisov said there would be a financial incentive for killing wolves, with rewards doled out for each wolf pelt brought in. The most successful wolf hunters would receive at least $3,000 in bonuses, according to AFP.
In the nearby Zabaikalsky region, officials raised the price of a wolf pelt from 5,000 rubles to 7,000 ($230) to spur more wolf killings.
According to the BBC, wolf-hunting season was also extended to the whole year after hunters killed only around 700 last year.
Underscoring the region’s troubles, a massive pack of around 400 wolves laid siege to the Siberian village of Verkhoyansk last January, it was reported at the time. The pack ate around 30 of the village’s horses.
More than half of Sakha, where nearly all of Russia’s diamonds are extracted, is located above the Artic circle and has a population of less than 1 million people. Temperatures reach below minus 50 Fahrenheit in the winter, making it even more difficult for hunters to cull the wolves.
The region’s village of Oymyakon has been called the world’s coldest inhabited location, reported AFP. In 1933, a temperature of minus 67.7 degrees Celsius (minus 90 Fahrenheit) was recorded.
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