Saturday, January 30, 2016

Landowner scares off wolves that had surrounded dog

Matthew Weaver
Capital Press
Members of the Dirty Shirt wolf pack came into conflict with dogs northeast of Chewelah, Wash., according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A homeowner in northeastern Washington state used a rifle to scare off five wolves that had surrounded his dog, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife reported.

Members of the Dirty Shirt wolf pack confronted a female Great Pyrenees at a home northeast of Chewlah, Wash., in Stevens County on Jan. 25.

The resident, who was not identified by the department, reported to the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office that at least five wolves surrounded his female Great Pyrenees in a field outside his home on Burnt Valley Road shortly after dark, according to wolf policy lead Donny Martorello.

The resident and his wife became alarmed when the wolves approached the dog, according to the update. The wolves surrounded the Great Pyrenees and “there was posturing and jumping,” Martorello stated.

The owner’s other dog, a German Shepherd-mix, was nearby and also approached the group, according to the update.

The man got his rifle and fired two or three shots over the heads of the wolves and dogs. At that point, the wolves moved away from the house and the dogs went inside.

Martorello said a drop of blood was found at the site, but the dogs were not injured. “We take it as a very serious incident,” Martorello told the Capital Press. “It’s one where wolves were very clearly on their private property. It could have turned out much worse if the owners of the dogs weren’t on site and able to haze that wolf away.”

The incident occurred in the portion of the state where wolves are not listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Given the imminent threat to the dogs, the dog owners had the right to shoot one of the wolves but did not, Martorello said.

The department confirmed four attacks between July 5 and 10 in which wolves from the Dirty Shirt pack killed livestock. The use of nonlethal tactics seemed to stop additional attacks on livestock, Martorello said.

The situation with the dogs “may be a bit different,” he said. Wolves and dogs view one another as “the same critter” and “territorial disputes” occur. “Typically, when dogs and wolves come together in that kind of encounter, dogs are usually not able to defend themselves,” he said. “Wolves can easily injure or kill dogs. In this case, the owners did everything right and were able to keep that from occurring.”

Martorello advises rural residents to be aware that wolves are keying in on sheep and cattle, which are present in smaller numbers during the winter. “Pay attention to tracks in the snow, any of those kinds of signs that tell you the wolves might be in that immediate vicinity,” he said. “If you have an encounter, please call us immediately.”

Martorello said the department will continue to monitor the pack’s movements closely to determine if they are near pets or livestock. If so, the department will tell landowners. “(We’ll) be as proactive as we can to avoid any further interactions,” he said.