Nfld. & Labrador

Biologist urges caution after wolves maul dog in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

As wildlife officers look into a recent wolf attack in the woods near 5 Wing Goose Bay, the incident serves as a reminder to never feed or approach wolves in the wild.

2 wolves attacked pet dog in forested area before owners scared them off

While Wednesday's wolf attack on a pet dog raises some concerns, biologist John Pisapio says there have been no indications so far the wolves are a danger to humans or leashed dogs. (photo credit:

A biologist says there is some concern over a wolf attack this week in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and although the wolves' exact motivation is unknown, people in the area should take the incident as a reminder to use caution.

At least two wolves mauled a pet dog in a large forested area on the Canadian side of Canadian Forces Base on Wednesday evening, before the dog's owners managed to scare off the wolves.

"There is a bona fide level of concern with that incident," said John Pisapio, Labrador's senior wildlife biologist with the Department of Environment and Conservation.

It's important not to panic, to stay calm, to try and assess what the animal is showing you with its behaviour.- Jos Pisapio

While Pisapio called the attack "serious and unfortunate," he noted several aspects that imply it was more of a random incident than a targeted hunt.

The dog was off leash and had roamed far from its owners into the woods, and was in an area known to be populated not only with wolves, but also prey like moose and beaver.

Perhaps most key to Pisapio was that the wolves — while no doubt intending to kill the dog — ran off when the owners approached and yelled, showing a natural fear of humans.

Don't panic

Pisapio said when wolves become habituated to humans, trouble can arise.

"They have a natural fear of people, and it's only when they get used to food and food rewards that they lose that fear. That's when they become more dangerous," he told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

John Pisapio says if someone encounters a wolf, it's important not to run away, but rather to back away slowly. (Dawn Villella/Associated Press)

"That's when they may challenge, or be more brazen or more desperate sometimes in going after a dog, even if people are there."

Pisapio said such habituation isn't rare: his office has had reports of people feeding wolves elsewhere in Labrador this summer, to the point that the wolves were hanging around waiting for scraps.

In the area near the attack, well-used by everyone from berry pickers to bikers, Pisapio said people should be mindful, but not fearful, of the area.

"Seeing wolves in and of themselves is not a concern, but if the wolves approach or if they show any type of aggressive behaviour, any type of fearlessness towards people who encounter them, that's something that needs to be reported," he said.

One top tip if you spot a wolf is never to turn and run, but rather slowly back away from the situation.

"It's important not to panic, to stay calm, to try and assess what the animal is showing you with its behaviour, whether in fact it is aggressive or whether it's just there and having a look," he said.

With files from Labrador Morning