An animal attack that left a dog near dead could be a sign that a wolf pack has expanded its territory to include the Truman Creek Road area north of Blacktail Mountain, residents and a wildlife biologist said.
Last Saturday afternoon, Jim and Audrey Ponaski returned home to find their yellow lab, Goldie, lying injured on their porch. “From one side we could tell she had been in a tussle, but when I got a look at the other side it was obvious it wasn’t just a dog fight,” Jim Ponaski said. “She had at least seven puncture wounds – some were so deep they couldn’t even stitch them up because they had to be left to drain.”
The next day a neighbor reported seeing three wolves on her property.
Kent Laudon, a wolf management specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said he had seen the Ponaski’s dog and done a cursory inspection of the area. Wolves are a definite possibility in the attack, he said, but noted other animals like a mountain lion or coyote could have caused the injuries.
“The Hog Heaven pack isn’t all that far away, but they’ve been radio collared for a few years and haven’t gone over into that area,” he said. “But that pack seems like it’s changed.”
Wolves were removed from the state’s endangered species list this past March, but legal challenges are underway. Today, FWP estimates about 420 wolves in about 73 packs inhabit Montana. It is legal to kill a wolf that is killing or threatening to kill pets or livestock.
The Hog Heaven pack, which traditionally has had its range southwest of the area, dwindled to a lone wolf a few years ago, Laudon said, before the arrival of several new wolves bolstered its numbers. FWP killed one of the group’s six wolves last year after the pack killed three cattle and a dog. The agency hasn’t observed a full year of locations with the new members and it could be, Laudon said, that those wolves are expanding or changing territory.
Also, recent logging in the area has attracted large numbers of deer searching for lichen – an obvious draw for predators – and wolves are highly nomadic before they den in spring, Laudon said. “It’s possible they wandered over here because circumstances were right and we won’t see them in that area again.”
If it was a wolf that attacked Ponaski’s dog, Laudon and Ponaski agree on one thing for sure: Goldie is one lucky animal. “Not many dogs survive a wolf attack,” Laudon said. “I’m kind of scratching my head as to how she’s still alive if that was the case.”
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