Dogs take toll on herd numbers

Posted: Friday, June 16, 2000

Across the state, the caribou's numbers are whittled down by such predators as bears and wolves. On the Kenai Peninsula, the caribou's biggest threat comes from the domesticated dog.

Dogs victimize the week and the young. Caribou give birth in May, with the newborns generally coming into the world around midmonth. The females are protective, but a cruel act of Mother Nature has the animals shedding their antlers around the time they produce their young.

Ted Spraker, who works for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the antlers would provide more defense against dogs.

Spraker said that usually dogs aren't killing for food. It's more of a game. The dogs play rough, beginning by panicking and chasing the frightened caribou away from the herd.

Once separated, a caribou's chances of survival diminish. Normally, a dog will end things by fatally wounding the animal with a chomp into the jugular vein.

Pet owners are advised that such behavior is not permitted. Domestic animals are not allowed to prey upon wildlife. Spraker said persons who witness dog attacks of caribou or moose are allowed to destroy the rogue dog.

"If they are caught chasing caribou or moose, anyone has the right to protect wildlife resources. They are public property," Spraker said.

Recently, a case of a dog menacing caribou spilled out on to the streets, when a large black lab-type dog chased a caribou across Bridge Access Road, resulting in an automobile accident.

The "Black Bandit" is a repeat offender with a history of caribou harassment and slaughter. The dog continues to evade law enforcement.

"He's big, 60 to 70 pounds," Spraker said.

Spraker said the dog used to go after caribou with a partner. When the two outlaws were observed feeding on a fresh kill, animal control attempted to shoot the dogs. One of the dogs fell that day, but the "Black Bandit" escaped.

Spraker is determined to catch the dog. The caribou it was feeding on was wearing a radio collar, only six of the Kenai Lowlands animals are fitted with collars.

"They're expensive," Spraker explained, adding that the investment in the animal includes not only the collar, but also helicopter time, drugs and other costs.

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