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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Regarding Wolves

The last few days have been bitterly cold, and my dane can't stand to be outside for more than a few minutes. His paws get cold so quickly that even eliminating outside in the snow is uncomfortable. Regular readers of my blog will remember my previous attempts to find Savage sufficient exercise in the really cold months, namely the treadmill I bought that he refuses to walk on, and the booties I bought that are impossible for him to walk IN. Today the temperature climbed all the way up to 14 degrees, so Savage and I could finally spend a good amount of time outside. He enjoyed bouncing through the deep snow and burying his whole head into snowbanks to sniff out rabbit tracks, and I enjoyed watching, knowing he was getting a little exercise.
What surprised me today was the number of wolf tracks on our driveway and the gravel road that runs perdendicular to it. There have been a couple incidents involving the native wildlife since we've moved to our new house, but none so close as this. A few months ago Savage and I were on a walk about 1 1/2 miles from our home when I started hearing wolves howling on the ridge above us. Another time Savage woke in the middle of the night, let out a long, loud howl and went back to sleep. The next morning I found where a wolf had gone to the bathroom next to the corner of the house. As we walked today, it was kind of an eerie feeling to realize that wolves had been on the same trail only last night. Timberwolf (gray wolf) attacks on dogs are rare(though much more common than attacks on humans), but they do happen. The general theory is that wolves will seek out dogs as prey when the moose/deer population in the area is very low, and/or lack of, or insufficient snow cover, makes it easier for wolves' normal prey animals to move around, and therefore harder for wolves to kill them. In addition, wolves that have become habituated to humans get less shy and are more likely to approach a domestic dog, even on a leash and accompanied by his owner. Living on the edge of the wilderness, as I have all my life, people get used to the wild animals that live in the woods, but in my opinion, the tracks we saw today were a bit too close for comfort. All I can do is watch Savvy carefully when he's out in the yard, and I plan to start carrying my handgun again when we are out roaming around: better safe than sorry. The majority of people I've talked to about this don't seem to understand that Savage's size is no deterrent to a determined pack, or even a single wolf. Regarding wolf attacks on dogs, Alaska state wildlife biologist Bob Stephenson said, in a 2007 Anchorage Daily News article, "Newfies, Great Danes, it doesn't matter. Wolves know how to kill like nobody's business".
While not treating these situations lightly, I would still like to stress that they are indeed wild animals that try to avoid humans and our habitats as much as possible. As I said before, attacks are rare, and vary from year to year. I think that with well-thought-out population management the relationship between wolves and humans (and their dogs!) could be controlled in a way that is beneficial to all.
Note: In some states, and in Minnesota specifically, wolves and wolf management continue to be controversial because of the importance of wolves as a supposed symbol of wilderness and a protected species, and on the other side the threats (real or perceived) to deer populations and pets and livestock. I have tried to temper this post so as to not offend any readers while still expressing my personal beliefs. As always, if you have any thoughts or comments, feel free to post them!

7 Comments:

  1. The PR Gang said...
    That first photo of Savage is sensational!!
    As far as the wolves, it's a little close for comfort right next to your house. Hopefully, as long as you two are together, the wolves should stay away.
    Stay safe!
    Honey the Great Dane said...
    Hi Savage,

    Thanks for visiting my blog!

    You look so handsome in the snow! I have never seen snow - would love to experience it! Although that is sad that it is so difficult for you to exercise - I can't imagine it being so cold. I have always lived in NZ all my life which never gets too cold - and even when we move to Australia next year, they say it will be even warmer there!

    I would love to exchange links but my human can't find an RSS feed on your blog! She says she needs that so she can put a link on my blog which gives updates whenever you put on a new post...otherwise she can put a normal link but it's better if she can put an RSS feed one...

    Can you tell me if we can get an RSS feed from you?

    Slobbers,
    Honey the Great Dane
    Our Girl Blue said...
    Hi, Savvy & Paula! Long time no talk - sorry about our absence lately. What a gorgeous pic of Savvy - I hope you're all doing well!
    Abbey said...
    Looking good Savage... Im with you Paula, Id protect my dogs if I had too...bit spooky so close...hope you all have a Merry Christmas...Love from Chels and Shilo...x
    Behr Behr said...
    Boy, that's WAY too close for comfort!! I'd be definitely worried about Savvy, and would protect him as much as possible!! (and YOURSELF!)

    Here in Calif., we have a problem with mt. lions attacking dogs. (and people) Unfortunately, you rarely can prevent the attack (other than avoiding all hikes). The only hope is with attacking the lion who has your dog if the dog is still alive (rare). We can't even legally carry guns, so all I have is a knife and pepper spray on hikes. Very iffy protection, to say the least. It's really too bad CA. and CO. have allowed this to happen.

    I say you do what you can to protect you both.

    Holly :)
    greatdaneservicedog said...
    Wow, Savage looks so good! He seems to have lost some more weight, or at least trimmed up and toned. Gorgeous young man you have there!
    I'm a bit on the edge of the wild here too, so I hear ya! Instead of wolves, we have large numbers of coyotes and packs of neighbor's uncontained dogs. They've actually pulled down livestock...so my boys go out on leash (they chase) and I keep the .38 with me. Sad but neccessary reality.
    I'm sending lots of hope and prayers your way for Savage's dental problem, too, poor guy. Give him a hug for me and Kenai?
    Paula said...
    Lisa~
    Savvy has lost weight. In some of the earlier posts he was up to 180lbs, but we've gotten him down to a more respectable 165lbs. I'm very proud of him.
    Thanks for the well wishes for my boy. Good luck to you and Kenai getting back into "training mode".

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