Tips offered after wolf attacks dog on Burntside Lake

Second incident, likely involving same pack, occurred on Little Long Lake one day later

On Thursday, Feb. 18, a dog out for a run with its owner had an encounter with a wolf after the dog ran into the woods. The dog sustained injuries that required surgery. A report was made to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources by the dog’s owner, detailing her encounter with the wolf near Burntside Lake. A second encounter occurred on Friday, Feb. 19, around noon on Little Long Lake with what was believed to be the same pack of wolves. Russ and Cathy Vanderboom own the dog that had the second encounter on Little Long Lake.

“Just before noon, I took our dog for a run on the lake,” Cathy said. “As I watched from the dock as our dog ran around the bay, I saw a large light-colored wolf coming off the point, about 100 yards from me and the same distance from our dog. A second black wolf was further south on the lake several hundred yards away. I blew the dog whistle, and our dog came in. I continued blowing the whistle loud and long until the wolf moved off. Later, Russ found two deer kill spots about a hundred yards south of our house, and at least four sets of wolf tracks coming from the west across Little Long from Burntside.”

Lori Schmidt, the Wolf Curator at the International Wolf Center in Ely, manages the wolf helpline, a resource for local residents to report wolf issues and receive advice and consultations with local wildlife management agencies.

“While wolves are typically territorial towards other canids, they may have an increased response to dogs during the breeding season in late February through early March, as well as after the pups are born later this spring while denning and in summer when raising pups ,” Schmidt said. “This winter may have an additional challenge due to snow depth. A winter with limited snow can be good for deer as they have an easier time eluding wolves, but obviously, hungry wolves can be more bold in behavior.”

Wolves can be drawn to areas where people may be feeding deer or other wildlife because of the potential for concentrations of prey and increased opportunities to kill deer. Occasionally they’re attracted to the food source that people are providing other wildlife or pets as well. Schmidt said that several years ago, the wolf helpline’s wildlife cameras recorded a wolf in poor condition feeding on corn at a deer feeding station off the Fernberg Trail. It is important that people understand human-related food supplies such as garbage, dog food and even remnants of bird or deer feeders can serve as an attractant for wolves.

What to do

Although attacks of dogs may be rare it is easy for these situations to develop quickly and can happen unexpectedly. It’s best to be cautious when recreating in areas where your dog may encounter wolves. Recommendations for living and recreating in wolf country include.

Dog Safety
• People with pets should avoid areas where wolves have been sighted until time passes or no additional wolf observations/incidents occur
• Keep dogs on leash, so wolves are less likely to approach people
• Don’t allow dogs to run loose or range away, keep in close contact and control
• Don’t try to intervene if a dog is actively being attacked
• Carry bear/pepper spray – It can be used to deter and attack or if a wolf is actively attacking a dog. The dog will need some recovery time, but the effects of bear spray are temporary and non-lethal.
Wolves very rarely attack humans but if one should act aggressively toward you:
• Don’t run, but act aggressively, stepping toward the wolf and yelling or clapping your hands if it tries to approach.
• Do not turn your back toward an aggressive wolf, but continue to stare directly at it. If you are with a companion and more than one wolf is present, place yourselves back-to-back and slowly move away from the wolves. Retreat slowly while facing the wolf and act aggressively.
• Stand your ground if a wolf attacks you and fight with any means possible (use sticks, rocks, ski poles, fishing rods or whatever you can find).
• Use air horns or other noise makers.
• Use bear spray
• Climb a tree if necessary

Recent changes
In January, gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species Act. The state’s gray wolf population is now managed under state and tribal authority in Minnesota. Minnesota is divided into two wolf depredation management zones - A and B. For an updated map of these zones and additional details about wolf management, visit the MN DNR website

Zone A, is considered the core wolf range and this is the area that Ely resides in. It may be necessary at times to take wolves to protect livestock, pets, or other domestic animals. It is legal to shoot a wolf that is an “immediate threat”
On their website, the DNR puts it like this:
“Owners of livestock, guard animals, or domestic animals may shoot or destroy wolves that pose an immediate threat to their animals, on property they own or lease in accordance with local statutes. “Immediate threat” means the observed behavior of a wolf in the act of stalking, attacking, or killing livestock, a guard animal, or a domestic pet under the supervision of the owner.
“Additionally, the owner of a domestic pet may shoot or destroy a wolf posing an immediate threat on any property, as long as the owner is supervising the pet.
“In all cases, a person shooting or destroying a wolf under these provisions must protect all evidence, and report the taking to a DNR conservation officer within 48 hours. The wolf carcass will be surrendered to the conservation officer.”
As for Zone B, or the southern ⅔ of the state, a person “may shoot a wolf at any time to protect livestock, domestic animals or pets on land they own, lease or manage. The circumstance of “immediate threat” does not apply.

Who to call
If anyone has issues with wolves in the Ely area, contact the Wolf Helpline at 365-4695 ext. 1340. If you have a concern of an imminent threat, calls should be made to 911 and the local conservation officer.

The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. For more information about the International Wolf Center, visit