Montana wolfpack kills one lion hound, injures second

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Wolves take down prized hunting hound

By Jim Mann, The Daily Inter Lake

3/19/02



Randy Richard of Eureka lost one of his blue-tick hounds to a pack of wolves last week. His second hound, Grizzly, pictured above, suffered bite wounds in its hips. Richard had his hounds in the Deep Creek area last Thursday for a mountain lion chase when they were apparently attacked by wolves.
Karen Nichols/ Daily Inter Lake

A Eureka-area tracker is upset that the law favors a $40 goat over a $3,000 hunting hound that he lost to wolves last week.
Randy Richard found the remains of Crow, one of his prized blue-tick hounds, last Friday in the Deep Creek area, along with abundant evidence that the dog had fallen prey to a wolf pack.

His other hound, Grizzly, was wounded.

"This doesn't make sense," Richard said. "If wolves kill livestock, a goat or sheep, there is compensation. This dog was worth more than any livestock that people are reimbursed for."

Richard took his hounds to the Deep Creek area east of Fortine on the morning of March 14 for a routine mountain lion chase.

"I do this for training the dogs, getting them out and working them," Richard said. "I haven't killed a mountain lion for eight years, but I run and tree 35 to 55 lions a year."

The hounds were cut loose on a fresh mountain lion track, and Richard spent most of the day following them.

"We were looking for the dogs, trying to hear them, walking back three miles on a gated road. One of the dogs was coming up the road looking for us," Richard said.

The dog was bleeding from bite wounds on its hips.

"I knew right away we were into wolves, because that's how they attack, from behind," he said.

Richard spent the rest of the day looking for his other dog, but was unable to find him even by scanning for a signal from the radio collar the dog was wearing. He quit searching around midnight, and returned the next morning, finding the remains of his 90-pound hound about 200 yards from where he had quit searching the night before.

"They had dragged him, castrated him, disemboweled him and consumed him," Richard said. "The only thing that was left was the forward part of his shoulders, his front legs, his neck and his head."

Richard said tracks at the scene indicated his two hounds had treed the mountain lion and then the wolves closed in.

"It appeared there were four wolves that came in from one side and a large wolf that came in from the other," he said.

Richard reported the incident to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Tim Thier, who referred it to Tom Meier, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf biologist based in Kalispell.

Meier said he can't do much but feel badly for Richard.

"We don't have a lot to offer on something like this because the recovery plan that we're operating under allows us to take action when there's been a livestock depredation, but not with pets or hunting dogs," he said. "It certainly is upsetting to people, because they are certainly more attached to their pets than they are with livestock."

Richard said Crow was easily worth $3,000.

The Fish and Wildlife Service often sends government trackers after wolves that kill livestock, and the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife has a program to reimburse people for livestock lost to wolves.

"If it were a $40 goat, somebody would be out there doing something about it," Meier said. "But that's just the way the regulations read."

While wolves kill one or two dogs a year in Montana, Meier said he's not aware of any case where Defenders of Wildlife has compensated someone for the loss of a hunting dog on national forest land.

Richard speculated his dog was killed by the Grave Creek wolf pack, named for a drainage adjacent to Deep Creek.

"He thinks there were five of them and that would be right for the Grave Creek pack," Meier said. "I think he's right."

Meier also agreed with Richard's assessment that the incident will have unfortunate side effects.

"Nobody is going to go over there to hunt for cougars anymore," Richard said, "and that will effect the state's management of mountains lions in that area."

He also guesses that people will be leery about taking their pet dogs into the area.

Meier said it's not unusual for wolves to kill coyotes, dogs or even other wolves that enter their territories. He said it is unusual for wolves to eat canine interlopers.

"I've seen dozens of wolves killed by wolves, and the great majority of them were not eaten," he said. "Normally what we see is that they kill a dog or a wolf, and they don't eat it."

Meier said he and Ted North, a tracker with the Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services division, examined the carcass of a pet dog that had been killed, but not eaten, in the Trego area.

Meier said North concluded that the dog had indeed been killed by a "large canid," but he could not determine whether the culprit was a wolf or a dog.


Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by e-mail at jmann@dailyinterlake.com
 

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