Avoiding wolf/dog conflicts
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
June 5, 2007
The Idaho Fish and Game Department has issued a caution to recreationists headed to the mountains with their family dogs, noting that "with the growing wolf population in the backcountry, they may be heading into trouble."
Wolves are by nature extremely territorial, and have developed ritualistic behaviors such as scent-marking and howling to mark their territories and indicate their strength to neighboring packs. Wolves also guard their territory and recent kills from other canids, including coyotes and domestic dogs.
IF&G noted that wolves still are protected under the Endangered Species Act and, though it is legal on private land, it is illegal to shoot a wolf attacking pet dogs or hunting hounds on public land.
IF&G notes that while it's impossible to completely eliminate wolf/dog conflicts in wolf habitat, precautions when walking dogs or hunting with hounds include:
- Keep the dog on a leash if possible-dogs running loose, away from people may attract wolves.
- If the dog runs loose, bring a leash to restrain the dog if wolves or wolf sign are encountered.
- Learn to recognize wolf sign. Knowing the signs associated with dens, rendezvous sites and kills will help avoid them.
- If you live near wolves, kennel dogs or bring them in at night. Don't leave food out that may attract wolves, bears or other unwanted guests.
- Make noise or put a bell on the dog collar to alert wolves that humans are associated with the dog; wolves are more likely to avoid contact with a dog when they are aware of humans nearby.
Hound hunting in wolf habitat is inherently risky; trailing dogs run loose away from the people who would ordinarily deter wolves. But hound hunters can take several steps used successfully by mountain lion ecology researchers in Yellowstone National Park. Researchers used hounds in more than 150 lion captures over more than eight winters in an area with high densities of wolves. They did not have any conflicts with wolves.
- Survey an area for wolf sign before releasing dogs; don't turn hounds loose if fresh wolf sign is found or wolves are heard howling nearby.
- Release hounds only on fresh sign-shorter chases result in less time dogs are away from the safety of people.
- Yell or make noise when releasing hounds and going to the tree to announce your presence to wolves that may be in the area.
- Get to the tree as quickly as possible-barking, unattended dogs may attract wolves.
- Leash dogs at the tree to prevent them from pursuing other cats.
- Some suggest using bells or beeper collars to emit a non-natural sound that indicates the hounds are not wild canids.
- Don't release dogs at baits or kill sites recently visited by wolves. When looking for bear or lion sign at a bait site or carcass, make sure to also look for wolf tracks.
- Bird hunters working in timbered wolf habitat for forest grouse should keep dogs within view, put a bell or beeping collar on wider ranging dogs, talk loudly to the dog or other hunters, use whistles, and otherwise control the dog so it stays close to the hunter; put the dog on a leash if wolves or fresh sign are seen.