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Current News & Issues: Wolves

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The following article appeared in the Idaho Mountain Express for the week of May 28 - June 3, 2003. View the original article online at


Don't take a dog into wolf country

By Gregory Foley, Express Staff Writer

"For the good of your dog, I would not take your dog out in wolf country."
— Carter Niemeyer, wolf recovery coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Despite their blood relation, wolves and dogs do not belong together, a pair of wolf experts said earlier this month.

Carter Niemeyer, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that although wolves are typically timid around humans, people should be very careful in deciding whether to take their dogs into wolf country.

"They will kill your dog," he said. "For the good of your dog, I would not take your dog out in wolf country."

Niemeyer, who has worked around wolves and other wild animals since 1975, said wolves usually shy away from humans and resort to barking and yipping like dogs when approached from a distance. However, they will not tolerate the presence of other canines and will act quickly to eliminate any perceived competitors.

Curt Mack, gray wolf project leader for the Nez Perce Tribe, said wolves are so intolerant of dogs because they are highly territorial. "Dogs are viewed as competition," he said.

The wolf experts said the best advice for dog owners who venture into wolf territory is to leave their pets at home. Dogs, even larger breeds that are typically self sufficient, should never be allowed to stray ahead on hikes into areas where wolves are known to frequent, they noted.

Mack noted that the wolf’s inaccurate reputation as a reckless killer ironically comes in part from its inadequacy as a predator. Unlike cougars—which are built for taking down large prey and often hide the signs of their kills—wolves must harass, tire and bite their prey to take it down, usually leaving gruesome signs of their hunting activity.

"Wolves are not very specialized predators," Mack said. "They’re basically, big dogs, and they have a tough time out there making a living."

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