A wolf killed one dog and injured two others last week as the hounds pursued a mountain lion in the Roscoe-Luther area, according to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
“Wolves can be aggressive toward dogs at any time of the year, but we do document an increase at this time of the year,” said Carolyn Sime, FWP’s wolf project leader.
Beginning in December and continuing through February, male wolves are wandering and competing for mates in advance of the breeding season.
“That aggressive behavior can transfer over to domestic dogs,” Sime said.
“The reason they attack dogs is they think there’s a strange wolf in their territory,” said Ed Bangs, western gray-wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Hunting dogs are often a target because they’re barking and baying, notifying wolves that they’re in the area, he added.
The number of dogs reported killed by wolves in Montana since 1990 is 40, according to preliminary data from FWP. That compares with 22 in Wyoming and 60 in Idaho.
“We think that’s low because people don’t always report that kind of stuff,” Sime said.
Wolves are also known to kill other wolves in territorial disputes, as well as coyotes.
The area where the dog was killed on Dec. 28, along the Beartooth Front near the East and West Rosebud drainages, is known as the home range for a breeding pair, Sime said.
Called the Rosebud pack, the two took up residence in late 2005. The state didn’t find a litter of wolf pups for the pair in 2009, and no livestock depredations have been reported.
The hunter, Scott Heimer of Luther, released his hounds on public land.
The dead dog was found near Morris Creek, a tributary of the East Rosebud southwest of Roscoe. The two injured dogs were found near Hogan Creek, a tributary to Red Lodge Creek near Luther.
Sime said there were wolf tracks around the dead dog, which had bite wounds to the neck and back.
All three dogs were wearing tracking collars, which are used by lion hunters to find the dogs once they are released on a lion track.
Roland Deane, a lion hunter and chairman of the board for the Montana State Houndsmen Association, said he doesn’t run his dogs in known wolf territory.
“I don’t hunt in wolf country for the simple reason that you’re apt to be out of business,” he said. “I know guys up in northwest Montana who have lost dogs (to wolves).”
Hunters typically have thousands of dollars and years of work invested in their hunting dogs. Depending on the type of dog, prices for year-old pups can start at $1,000.
Although Montana’s reimbursement program compensates landowners for the loss of dogs used to protect livestock, no such allowance is made for hunting dogs or pets.
In rural or remote areas, FWP advises residents to keep dogs in secure kennels or inside buildings at night and to not let them roam freely when people are not around during the day. When fresh wolf sign is found, owners should keep their dogs leashed when walking.
“You can protect your dog by standing by it,” Bangs said.
State law allows individuals to kill a wolf seen attacking or killing domestic dogs.
Incidents should be reported to FWP within 72 hours.
Contact Brett French at email@example.com or 657-1387.