In the winter of 2011, in a remote town in in the Sakha Republic of eastern Russia, 30 horses were killed in 4 days. Isolated and terrified, the local population of Verkhoyansk soon realized that the murderers were a force to be reckoned with; a 400-strong super-pack of wolves.
The tiny town of Verkhoyansk is one of the coldest and most remote places in the northern hemisphere and lies within an area known as Stalin’s Death Ring, after the former dictator sent political exiles there to suffer the extreme conditions. It is these extreme conditions that are thought to have caused a super-pack to form.
Wolves typically hunt in packs of 6 or 7, and a super-pack of this size was unprecedented. It is believed that due to dwindling numbers of their staple prey, rabbits or hares, during the particularly harsh Siberian winter, hundreds of smaller packs joined together to hunt.
There are thought to be about 3,500 wolves in the Sakha Republic, which covers an area larger than Argentina, although the local government says the territory can realistically support no more than 500. In this area, in 2012, wolves killed 313 horses and over 16,000 reindeer, according to the agriculture ministry. While no attacks on humans have been reported recently, the influx of predators into more populated regions has had a big impact on agriculture – especially the region’s traditional reindeer herders.