Archive for January 6th, 2008

Wolves on the prowl

January 6, 2008

As I was looking through some end of the year stories, I came upon this one. A couple of wolves in the Fort Nelson area moving in on a man snow machining with some kids, showing no fear of the humans or the Rottweiler that intercepted them.

The wolves appeared quietly at about 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 22, as darkness was creeping in on the winter wonderland 100 kilometres east of Fort Nelson, where the families were tobogganing.

About 30 metres away, a sleighful of three children — one aged four and the others aged three — were being happily towed along the base of a hill by an all-terrain vehicle.

Father Kyle Keays was oblivious to the danger until he suddenly heard his wife’s shriek from the top of the hill.

Shadow, their Rottweiler-cross, had broken from the grasp of Keays’ wife and was bounding down the hill toward the wolves, who were moving in toward the children.

“I looked back and saw my dog intercept the lead wolf — there were two of them. They were heading towards the kids and the dog came in,” said 36-year-old Keays, who was riding on a separate ATV.

This made me think of the story from 2005 regarding the killing of the young man in Saskatchewan and how there was great resistance on the part of some people to blame it on a bear attack rather than on wolves, although the inquest eventually concluded it was a wolf attack.

 

Since then there have been a few others. One was an attack on a kayaker on B.C.’s north coast:

A kayaker’s life-and-death struggle with a hungry wolf on B.C.’s remote north coast — the second wolf attack in the province in seven years, and the first thought to involve predatory intent — has prompted a conservation officer to warn against taking wolf encounters too lightly.

“This was a predatory wolf attack,” conservation officer James Zucchelli confirmed in an interview from his Bella Coola Valley office. “That fellow was perceived as a prey source. He was attacked with intent to eat. The wolf saw him and took off running at him.”

Zucchelli cautioned against public alarm since such incidents are extremely rare, adding he’s not heard of another predatory attack during his eight years as a conservation officer.

 

There have been others, but just recently a news item out of Montana described a cat hunter’s dogs being attacked by a wolf pack with one dog being killed and another severely wounded.

Joe Kerney said he was on a hunt Dec. 31, when he released two grown hounds and a pup on a mountain lion track in the Rogers Lake area. After a chase of less than a mile, the hounds were baying.

They went up this draw and it sounded like they had a cat treed,” said Kerney, who was pursuing not far behind.

All of a sudden, I heard a dog fight going on,” he said.

As Kerney approached the noise, he saw “two dogs on a dead run toward me. There was something wrong, because they don’t quit hunting.”

These incidents are cerainly not common but they do seem to be increasing in number. Probably due to more people encroaching on their range and in the case of Montana wolves being transplanted, and flourishing, in an already populated and increasingly urbanized area.

Although the popular mantra has been that wolves will not attack humans – disproved by the killing of the unfortunate man in Saskatchewan – I can remember reading a couple of separate stories many years where a couple of old trappers in the Yukon/Alaska area were convinced that they had been hunted by wolf packs. In the one case the fellow spent the night in a tree while the wolves roamed around below him. In the second case the trapper related how the wolves made passes at him, coming closer each time, until he fired some shots at them and they moved off. He was convinced that they were making test runs prior to a serious attack.

There is no question that wolves are hell on dogs. Prince Rupert has had its problems in this respect, with the most recent being this past December where wolves attacked a dog on the local golf course.

And although the Saskatchewan tragedy was reported as the only fatal wolf attack on a human in North America, a friend of mine sent me this old newspaper article from 1963.

Winnipeg Free Press
By: Gerald McNebl
November 18, 1963

QUEBEC (CP) — Game experts are generally sceptical about stories of wolves, attacking humans, but there is strong evidence to. support belief that five-year-old Marc Leblond was killed by one Sept. 24 north of Baie-Comeau, Que. An autopsy showed he was killed by a savage animal and authorities at Baie-Comeau, 225 miles northeast of here, are convinced it was a wolf. If so, it would be the first authenticated case in Canada of a wolf killing a human. Even reports of wolves attacking humans. are rare. Dr. Louis Lemieux, director of Quebec’s fish and wildlife management service, can recall only one—that of a man who reported fighting off a wolf in Northern Ontario several years ago. Of the death of Marc Leblond, he says “it could happen” that a wolf killed him, but if so it would be as unusual as the case at Sept-Hes, Que., last year in which an airman was savagely attacked by an owl.

Shoot On Sight
Police and hunters at Baie-Comeau are shooting wolves on sight, though few have been seen near inhabited areas. The Leblonds, from Godbout, Que., had-rented a summer cottage for a week at an isolated lake north of Baie-Comeau. It was about 25 miles from the Manicouagan hydro-electric development where Mr. Leblond worked. He commuted each day on
an access road. Workers have often seen wolves near the road. Frank Auger, Quebec-Hydro police chief at Bale -Comeau, says Marc and his three-yearold brother had been outside playing for a few minutes Sept. 24 when their parents heard a commotion. The y o u n g e r boy rushed screaming into the house. The parents unable to find Marc, thought he had drowned and called police. A search of the lake revealed nothing, but two policemen and foreman Leon Verrault of Quebec-Hydro found the torn body in the forest after a brief search.

Tracks Near Body
They also saw a wolf lurking 50 yards off. Unarmed, they were unable to shoot it but Verrault, an experienced hunter, described it as “a grey timber wolf weighing about 80 pounds.” Tracks of two wolves surrounded the body. Later that day an armed group scoured the area, shot at a wolf but missed. Examination by Dr. Jacques Beaumont, the district coroner, convinced Auger the boy was killed by a wolf. Wolves follow the same pattern in killing deer. Auger says there are no wild dogs, in the area and there were no signs of other animals near the body. He says Manicouagan workers workers have r e p o r t e d being watched by wolves – “They threw stones at them but the wolves didn’t go away” – along the access road. There had never been a report of an attack however.

Bounties Halted
“We’ve seen all kinds of them in this, district but this is the first time in 20 years of police work I’ve had a case like this,” Auger said. Yet he is convinced the Leblond boy was killed by a wolf and he has ordered his men to kill them on sight. Quebec quit giving bounties for wolves in 1961 and now sends professional trappers into areas where they are killing cattle or s h e e p . A trapper hasn’t been sent to Baie-Comeau. There evidently are thousands of wolves – the largest on record 136 pound – north of the St. Lawrence but Dr. Lemieux says they are rarely seen even by hunters.

The story sounds very plausible as small children are certainly more at risk around any kind of predator, even the much smaller coyote.

I think it only goes to show that when you step into the bush you always need to consider the fact that you are at the bottom end of the food chain.


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