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KNBA News - Car thefts up in Anchorage; Kotzebue Sound Beluga whale population dropping

Anchorage Police Department sees spike in stolen cars

By Zacharia Hughes, APRN – Anchorage

Seventeen cars were stolen in a single 24-hour period in Anchorage, starting Monday and running through Tuesday morning.

Jennifer Castro, a spokesperson for the Anchorage Police Department said, “Majority of them were cases or scenarios where the motorist had left their key in the ignition running so that it could warm up."

She says 17 stolen cars is an exceptionally high spike, but part of a phenomenon the department is used to seeing. More cars are stolen when the temperature fluctuates back and forth around freezing. The oscillations cause more frost on vehicles, leading residents to idle them unattended for longer, which Castro says creates an opportunity for theft.

"We actually sent out a similar press release like this around the same time last year,” said Castro.

She says the reports came in from neighborhoods all across Anchorage, and that most thefts involve the short-term use of a car or truck.

"A lot of people ask 'why are people stealing cars?' or 'what are they using them for?' And a lot of the time it's for a temporary situation: they just want to use them to get from point A to point B, it's often that when we do recover these vehicles there's drug paraphernalia and
things like that found in them."

It's against municipal code to leave a vehicle idling unattended without an auto-start or keyless operating system. Residents who spot unfamiliar vehicles parked along residential streets and cul-de-sacs for long stretches of time are asked to contact police.


Kotzebue Sound beluga now prey to killer whales
By Johanna Eurich

Kotzebue Sound is changing and the hunters for Beluga are facing competition. Researcher Manuel Castellote at the Alaska Fisheries center placed underwater microphones in the Sound.  Instead of belugas he found the source of the problem  -- killer whales.

"It turns out when we look at our data what we found was mainly killer whales,” said Castellote. “So that's why the project quickly became a killer whale project."  

Things have gotten so bad in Kotzebue Sound that Belugas there don't sing out as much as they do elsewhere.  They're afraid killer whales will find them and eat them.

"Cause they know that if they are tappy, they will hear them and they might be predated,” said Castellote. “So they try to be silent."

As in so many areas in the Arctic, changes are happening more quickly than further south.  In Kotzebue Sound the seabirds that used to eat fish have declined while those eating plankton have increased.  

As far as the belugas whales that the Inupiat in Kotzebue love to hunt, killer whales may not be the only problem.  In the spring when the ice breaks up, the town of Kotzebue regularly empties raw sewage into the Sound.  That's not the best thing for Belugas to eat.  Others in the community also worry that the noise from ships loading up at the Red Dog mine may also be spooking the whales.