A number of attacks on dogs north of Winnipeg, Manitoba have some experts worried that the region’s gray wolves are moving into residential areas due to declining deer numbers. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, biologists suspect that the Manitoba wolves moved into the area after deer populations in their traditional hunting grounds further east dropped. The predators initially arrived to take advantage of the healthy deer herds near Winnipeg.
Over time, however, experts say that the Manitoba wolves may have come to view dogs as an easier food source. Some even suspect that Winnipeg’s new wolf population has become accustomed to stalking or luring dogs.
“They’ll play like dogs, trying to lure the dogs towards them,” Lyall Trainor, whose own German shepherd was killed earlier in the month by a pack of wolves, told the CBC. “Both of our dogs held their ground and stayed by the house that night, but it was a moonlit night, and I could see the wolves jumping around out there trying to get them out of the yard. As soon as they’re out of the yard, that’s when they’ll get them.”
In just two weeks, officials have confirmed that four dogs from the Winnipeg area were killed—and partially consumed—by wolves. Victoria Beach Police Chief Steward MacPherson described one attack as especially viscous.
“The dog was literally torn into pieces and a piece was found over here and another piece over here type thing. They really went to town on that dog,” he said.
Wolves generally do not prey on dogs; they do so only as a last resort. According to wildlife biologist Daniel Dupont, the recent attacks on dogs in the area may be due to the fact that the wolves are attempting to establish new territories and see the dogs as rivals. If they happen to get some food out of it, then that is a bonus.
“It’s not unusual behavior,” Dupont told the Free Press. “A group of wolves would consider them intruders.”
Manitoba officials have reached out to local trapper’s organizations for assistance in removing the wolves. Traps have been placed in areas where dogs have been attacked before, and any wolves caught will likely be euthanized. Unlike in most of the United States, gray wolves are not rare in Manitoba and officials estimate that there are upwards of 4,000 wolves in the province. Wildlife officials advise residents near Victoria Beach to walk in groups at night. Carrying a weapon or a deterrent such bear spray may also prove helpful.
“If a wolf approaches you, definitely don’t run,” Barry Verbiwski, Manitoba’s head of wildlife conflict management, told The Globe and Mail. You’re more likely to initiate an attack or chase. If a wolf does attack you, fight back aggressively. Use anything like keys or a pen. You are fighting for your life.”