The search continues for a dog missing since a wolf attack on the Thornhill Mountain Trails, near Terrace, on June 27.
Dog-walker Danielle Sexton was walking up Copper Mountain with her 11-year-old brother and 14 unleashed dogs when they encountered two wolves. The wild animals launched on one of the canines. At some point during the conflict Sexton’s three-year-old Husky, Lexa, disappeared.
Community support has since been pouring by organizing search party walks, flying drones over the search area and installing trail cameras to help locate Sexton’s pet. Immediately following the incident, Sexton posted on Facebook to warn the public about the wolves and offer details regarding her missing husky.
“It’s been amazing, there have been people printing off posters and putting them all over town, taking their lunch breaks to go drive around and look for her, or walking trails all over the area,” she says. “We’ve all been communicating with each other about where we’re going to go… we also set up her kennel and blanket out there.”
The ‘Come Home Lexa’ Facebook group has almost 600 members who are actively engaged to help Sexton find her dog. She says she’s taken aback with the amount of support she’s received since the incident, with many people coming out to help look and put up posters around the area. A reward of $1,500 is being offered by Sexton if Lexa is found.
She says she believes her dog is still alive as she can’t recall seeing her during the attack. It’s likely she ran off in fear upon hearing all the commotion.
“We just got to the beginning of the trail that we were taking, we were maybe 200 feet from the logging road and I could hear a dog screaming,” says Sexton. “I sprinted over and I see two wolves on [one of the dogs].”
She says the wolves were holding down her friend’s dog as she tried to scare them off but it wasn’t until another dog intervened that they let go.
“The other dog jumped on them and they kept coming toward him; I yelled at them, screamed and charged at them until they eventually ran away,” she says. “I counted all the dogs right away.”
Sexton then realized her three-year-old husky Lexa was missing.
The injured dog suffered severed wounds to one of its hindquarters and was rushed to the vet to receive stitches.
BC Conservation officer Scott Senkiw was called to the scene to investigate.
He says although there have been sightings of wolves in the area, they typically are very cautious, reserved and avoid engagement.
“They don’t want contact with humans and what could have happened [is that] there may or may not have been puppies in the area,” Senkiw says. “That large troop of 14 dogs, all of which were off the leash, potentially they perceived that as a threat and were simply taking defensive action.”
Concluding the attack does not pose a threat to public safety, Senkiw says COs are not engaged in the search for the missing dog and will not be seeking to remove the wolves at this time as it was not in an urban environment.
That same week, another Facebook user posted that her dachshund was pinned down by a wolf in her yard by Kalum Lake Rd. and says the wolf pack is “up to 15” in the area.
Senkiw says they did not receive a report of that incident and there is no reason for panic.
“People on social media tend to bolster that and there may be some hysteria, but that just comes with people being conscious of where they live,” he says. “The amount of sightings that have come in, none of them have really indicated there’s any aggression or anything that would really cause alarm… we just have to remember that we’re in their environment.”
Although it’s unlikely a wolf would attack a human, Senkiw says they are curious animals and it’s important to know how to react if encountering one in the wild. Generally, the scare tactic as employed by Sexton during her encounter will discourage a wolf from approaching as they don’t like conflict.
“Ideally, we recommend people raise their arms and wave them in the air… [using] noisemakers, horns, throwing sticks, rock, sand, anything available just to show that this just isn’t worth coming near,” he says. “If they display aggressive behavior, we recommend people back away slowly and don’t turn your back on the wolf…. [and always] carry wildlife designated pepper spray.”
He also advises to not hike alone and that all animals should be leashed, as their reports over time show that off-leash pets tend to get into more conflict than on-leash with wildlife.
To report sightings of wolves or wild animals near a residential area, Senkiw urges the public to call the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277. Keeping attractants out in the open or feeding dangerous wildlife can also result in fines of up to $575 under the BC Wildlife Act.