Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Details of wolf shooting emerge

Sick animal had lingered in neighborhood for days

Express Staff Writer

A Deer Creek-area homeowner alerted Fish and Game late last month after he discovered that a wolf that had been lingering around his property north of Hailey had moved to his driveway.

The homeowner's name has not been released, but Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer Lee Garwood said the man had been walking his dog the night before when a young female wolf stepped off of snowbank and growled at the pair.

"[The wolf] then laid down and went into what the man called 'convulsions,'" Garwood said. "It was late at night, so he and his dog went home."

But the next morning, the wolf was lying 10 to 15 yards into the driveway, alive but unable to lift its head, Garwood said. The agency received a call from the homeowner, but by the time two conservation officers arrived, the wolf was dead.

"The homeowner didn't want to see the thing suffer any further, so he euthanized it with a shot to the head," Garwood said.

Further examination showed that the wolf was a victim of canine parvovirus, which in this case attacked the animal's intestinal system.

A Fish and Game news release states that the wolf was emaciated and was presenting with diarrhea—a common symptom of the virus, which also generally causes vomiting and dehydration.

The virus does not affect humans, but is common in canines, Garwood said.

"It's fairly common," he said. "You see it in domestic dogs occasionally."

Wolves and dogs are generally infected through contact with the feces of an infected animal, or, in rarer cases, infected in the womb by a mother carrying the disease. It is usually fatal, and the virus can survive in the feces of infected animals for up to a year.

Garrick Dutcher, program manager for wolf advocacy group Living With Wolves, said the case was unusual in that the wolf was older than the typical age for wolves who contract the illness.

"It usually gets puppies in their first year," he said. "It's a common ailment among wolves, [like] mange."

Garwood said he is not certain whether the wolf was part of a pack or traveling alone.

"I thought for several years that we may have a pack mid-valley, but I can't say that with any certainty," he said. "There have always been random sightings from Warm Springs all the way to Highway 20. I'd be speculating."

As to how the wolf got into the Deer Creek area, Garwood said he couldn't say for sure. The area is a wintering area for elk, which could have drawn a lone wolf or her pack.

"The area around the mouth of Deer Creek seems to be where I get some [wolf] calls," he said. "There's elk in the vicinity. It could have been out with its packmates hunting and just ended up [at the home]."

A group of six wolf pups near Fairfield died of the virus in 2009. The Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care reports that, untreated, the virus has a mortality rate of 91 percent.

Dogs can be inoculated against the virus, though the vaccine can take up to two weeks to become effective.

Katherine Wutz:

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