MI: Wolf attacks on dogs in U.P. appear on the rise

Posted on December 8, 2011

Marquette, Mich. - Since wolves have reintroduced themselves to Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, conflicts between hunting dogs and wolves have been on the rise. It may be that the largest increase in Michigan's wolf population, which occurred last year, has led to an increase in incidents of wolves attacking hunting dogs.

According to Brian Roell, DNR wolf specialist in Marquette, in 2011 there have been eight reported wolf and dog incidents, that led to death or injury of 17 hunting dogs.

"The incidents were spread out across the U.P., and this is the highest number we have recorded," Roell said.

One case in Mackinac County helped to pile up the numbers quickly. A pack of five beagles were snowshoe hare hunting in March of this year when they ran into a wolf pack. Wolves kill, and sometimes eat, every other canine that they come across, including coyotes, dogs, and even wolves from another pack. The end result of the March incident was three dead beagles and two injured. In two other cases involving bear hounds, two and three dogs were killed in each instance, respectively.

On Sept. 18, bear hunter Buck Young, of Midland, was driving on a road about 7 miles north of Naubinway with his three dogs on a rigging rack. When the team found fresh tracks, Young set his dogs down and the pursuit was on. The Walkers ran the bear for about two hours and successfully treed it. Because his dogs had GPS collars on, Young quickly found their location, drove around the section, and quickly ran in to the scene.

Even though he sensed something was wrong because the dogs stopped barking, he wasn't ready for what he saw when he got to the tree where the bear had been treed. His treeing Walkers, 4-year-old Mya and 14-month-old Train were ripped to shreds, and Mya was half eaten.

Young quickly contacted the DNR and returned to the scene. Again he wasn't ready for what he saw: The wolves had apparently gone back to feed on the dead dogs again.

"The first time I saw my dogs dead I was just plain mad. When I returned with the biologist and saw they had been eaten more, I broke down," Young said, emphasizing how close the hunter was to his pets.

Young said the incident is still tough to take. He started both dogs as pups and was particularly proud that Mya could run and tree bears all by herself at 4 years old.

Young said a year earlier he'd had a dog killed by a bear.

"That was different to me because the dog was doing its job. They have a chance with a bear, but with a pack of wolves they have no chance at all," Young said.

As the state tries to get management control of its wolf population and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service efforts to delist the wolves continue to be derailed by lawsuits and court cases, it's the hunters that suffer, Young said. Part of his frustration lies in the fact that hunters' money is being used to track and monitor wolves in Michigan, and the time that Michigan conservation officers and biologists have to spend dealing with wolves. In addition, Michigan biologists are seeing a sharp rise in wolves caught by coyote trappers. Most often a CO or biologist is called to release the animal.

"If the wolf is protected by the feds, why aren't they sending their airplane pilots, biologists, and law enforcement officers to deal with these situations?" Young asked. "Let's call the feds; it's their fault we can't control these wolves. Why should we have to pay for this?"

Michigan's wolf population continues to grow unchecked because the hands of state officials are tied. Hunting dogs will continue to be at risk, particularly hunting hounds and beagles. There has only been one bird dog killed. It is believed they're safer because of bells, beepers, and running closer to the hunter.

Roell encourages hunters with dogs to scout the area before they set dogs out, and if they see wolf tracks, go to a safer area. Many bear hunters check in with the DNR, either with news of a wolf pack in an area or to check if one is known to be in an area they want to hunt, he said.

"I urge hunters to call in," Roell said. "If nothing else, we can identify areas of recent wolf activity and warn them to stay clear of them."

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