A five-year-old boy is dead after being attacked by as many as five dogs on a northern Alberta reserve.

The boy was walking along a residential road on the North Tallcreereserve at about 7 p.m. local time Thursday when he was mauled.

No one saw the attack, said Dylan Thomas, a spokesman with the band office.

Two peoplewho came across five fighting dogs afterward tried to chase the animals away, he said.

"Four of the dogs immediately ran away, while one refused to leave. The two witnesses attacked the dog with a shovel. It was only then they realized the dog had attacked a child."

The little boy was already dead when ambulance workers arrived.

"The community is providing support to the family with grief counselling by elders and professional counsellors," said Thomas, reading a statement from the band."We ask that the family and thecommunity be left alone to grieve," he said.

Two dogs quarantined

The child'sname has not been released by police.

The boy's family is devastated, said Sgt. Ryan Becker of the RCMP in Fort Vermillion Friday.

"It's quite a tragic event –ahorrible way for a young fellow to have ended his life."

The attack was so vicious that the boy's facial features were destroyed, said Becker.

"He had a lot of trauma to his upper body and to his facial area, and that prevented us from making a positive identification last evening."

Police have seized two dogs, a rottweiler and a German shepherd cross, which are in quarantine at the Fort Vermilion veterinarian clinic.

The owner of the two dogs was deeply distressed by the attack, said Becker. The dogs, family pets with no history of violence, had been tied up, according to the owner.

RCMP are still looking for the other three dogs.

North Tallcree First Nation is 45 kilometres south of Fort Vermilion.

Similar to death of girl on another Alberta reserve

The attack was eerily similar to one seven years ago at Garden River on the Little Red River reserve.

Five-year-old Cecilia Alook was killed by dogs in November 1999 when she stopped to play with a puppy just 200 metres from her home.

That attack was blamed on animals that were starving.

Becker said stray dogs have been a chronic problem on both the Tallcree and the Little Red River reserves. After the 1999 attack, local governments on both reserves passed bylaws authorizing animal control officers to destroy strays.

With files from the Canadian Press