The first 100 wolves have been killed in the Sakha Republic as the authorities step-up their campaign to protect people and reindeer herds, officials confirmed.
The republic has ruled out the use of poisons, despite demands by hunters. Instead, they must use traditional ways of hunting, like traps and shooting. When the cold eases, helicopters will be deployed to shoot wolf packs. Picture: Viktor Everstov, The Siberian Times
Our picture shows the early results of a cull which is aiming to slaughter as much as 87.5% of the wolf population of Russia's largest region. The number of kills are likely to be higher but many hunters remain in inaccessible regions and 100 is the figure known to the authorities.
It comes as officials in another Siberian region - TransBaikal - are calling on Moscow to suspend a ban on the use of controversial poisons to destroy wolves.
Here, recently, a shepherd fled for his life, climbing a tree, as marauding wolves killed three rams.
Yakutian hunters set a trap next to the body of a horse mauled by wolves. Picture: Viktor Everstov, The SIberian Times
It is so far unclear if they will be allowed to use of a fluorine-acetate-barium compound widely deployed to curb wolf numbers in Soviet times, which would be highly controversial among ecologists.
Hunting began in Sakha - also known as Yakutia - on 15 January and currently more than 80 'brigades' are deployed in a bid to cull 3,500 of the 4,000 wolves believed to be living in the republic.
Sixty more are planned to start hunting soon, with bounties for each wolf killed and prizes for the most prolific hunters.
Wolves are becoming a rising threat to reindeer-herding villages across the region but the worst-hit are Tompon and Kobyaiskiy districts, where states of emergency have been called. There are also deep concerns on the threat from wolves in Momskiy district.
Recently Ivan Pavlov, deputy minister of agriculture in Sakha, called for hunters to be more active, assuring them of financial support.
'Hunters in some areas are still pausing, waiting for the money to be transferred first,' he said.
'We can't have this attitude, as attacks on domestic animals happen almost daily now, both horses and reindeers. We've got to make our animal protection system stronger.
'We are putting a budget almost three times as big as for 2012 to finance the hunting.
Avia shooting will be supported by 14 million roubles, land hunting will take some 5 million roubles, and about 13 million roubles would go into skins processing.
'We are increasing the financing, and we've got to deliver better results.
'We have got to significantly decrease the number of wolves without damaging the nature.'
Wolves are becoming a rising threat to reindeer-herding villages across the region but the worst-hit are Tompon and Kobyaiskiy districts, where states of emergency have been called. Pictures: Alexander Tyryshkin, The Siberian Times
The republic has ruled out the use of poisons, despite demands by hunters. Instead, they must use traditional ways of hunting, like traps and shooting.
When the cold eases, helicopters will be deployed to shoot wolf packs.
'Wolves become a trouble not only for Yakutia - our neighbours in Trans-Baikal region have to take strong measures to stop wolves getting to domestic animals,' said Pavlov. In TransBaikal, the estimated wolf population is higher than Sakha, at 5,000, double its desirable level, said Alexander Purbuyev, the head of the state hunting service in the region.
The region is paying a royalty of 10,000 roubles ($334) for each killed animal.
Latest reports in Sakha suggest double this rate will be paid in a region where 55 horses and 564 domestic reindeer have already perished due to wolves this year. A total of 16,111 reindeer and 314 horses were lost in 2012.
'People are worried like never before about massive wolves attacks on domesticated animals in all areas of the republic, including central ones,' said Yegor Borisov, head of the republic, last month.
Irkutsk officials say supplies to major city could run out but Russian government says more analysis of environmental impact needed.
Pipeline will go through pristine Altai Mountains in supply route seen as economically vital by Kremlin.