Monday, September 15, 2014

Guest editorial: How to avoid wolf-dog conflicts

By Nancy Warren*

Owning a pet requires responsibility which includes doing everything possible to keep it from harm. Sometimes bad things happen. Forget to close a gate and your pet can escape, become lost or get struck by a car.

So far this year in the Upper Peninsula, wolves have killed eight dogs and injured one. These were not dogs near residences or dogs that escaped yards; they were hounds either hunting or training to hunt bears and other wildlife. Some of the dogs were released at night when wolves hunt. Some dogs wore GPS tracking collars and were one-half mile or more away from the handler.

DNR records show there is little correlation between the total wolf population and attacks on hounds. In 2003, when there were 321 wolves in the U.P., there were 11 attacks on dogs.

Each of the dogs killed or injured in 2014 was released into known wolf pack territories where prior attacks on dogs had occurred. Further, each of these attacks took place during the month of August while wolves were still at rendezvous sites.

Rendezvous sites are the home sites used by wolves after the denning period and after the pups are weaned. These gathering sites are mostly used from mid-June until late September and are often associated with a food source. It is during this time that wolves are most aggressive toward strange wolves and dogs, as the pups are still dependent upon the pack.

As with other wild canids, wolves are territorial and will defend their territories from other wolves, coyotes and dogs. They perceive a pack of dogs yowling and barking through their territory as a threat and will attack other predators that get too close.

Bear baiting, beginning in early August, poses another risk to hunting dogs. Current regulations allow bear hunters and guides to bait with unlimited amounts of meat, meat products, dog food, fish products, cat food and a variety of bakery products including cooked and commercially processed materials, pie fillings and yogurts used in bakery products. Wolves are attracted to these bait piles and research shows they will guard this food source from intruders.

Michigan DNR has posted to its website a list of wolf/dog encounters dating back to 2012, along with the areas where conflicts have occurred.

No one is questioning anyone’s right to use dogs for training or hunting game. But, time and time again, hounders have ignored the warning signs and chose to release their dogs, in known problem areas, placing their dogs at risk. Then, when something bad happens, they cry wolf.

*Editor's Notes:

Nancy Warren, author of this article, is National Wolfwatcher Coalition Great Lakes Regional director. Inset photo of Nancy Warren by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now.

If you are interested in this issue or other local issues involving wildlife, you may wish to attend the Sept. 15 meeting of the Department of Natural Resources’ Western Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council (CAC) on the campus of Michigan Technological University in Houghton. The meeting will take place in the Memorial Union Building, Room A2.  Beginning at 5:30 p.m. EDT (4:30 p.m. CDT), DNR staff will present division reports on current DNR projects and business and answer questions from council members and the public. The council meeting will immediately follow from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. -7 p.m. CDT). Click here for more details.

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