Wolf attack kills pony in Lake County

Rhonda Silence

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources took possession of this wolf which was killed by a Silver Bay-area property owner last week. 
Submitted photo The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources took possession of this wolf which was killed by a Silver Bay-area property owner last week. Submitted photo Although a Duluth TV station report that a pony had been killed by a wolf in Cook County is incorrect regarding the location of the attack, the facts—that a wolf entered a barn and killed livestock and was then shot and killed—are correct. The attack occurred in the Silver Bay area.

The news of the attack alarmed local horse owners, many who know the family who owned the pony, a 7-yearold named Sparky. The Cook County News-Herald talked to the horse’s owner this week. He explained that sometime late Thursday night or early Friday morning, October 4, a wolf chased the pony into the barn and killed it.

He said the next morning, his wife saw the wolf standing at the barn door when she let their dogs out. She quickly got them back inside and tried to shoo the wolf off. The wolf eventually left, but did not go far. Just far enough for her to get to the barn to make the gruesome discovery. The wolf had cornered the pony in the barn, killed it and had begun eating it.

The family contacted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and was told that trappers would be sent to capture the wolf. However, the DNR told the family that if the wolf returned and appeared threatening, it could be shot. In a phone conversation this week, DNR Conservation Officer Don Thomasen said under MN statutes and the DNR’s wolf policy, a homeowner or animal owner has the right to protect himself if people, pets or livestock are threatened.

It didn’t take long for the wolf to return. As the horse owner sat down to lunch, he kept an eye on his wife and a friend who were caring for another horse in the barn. The wolf made its way out of the woods, toward the barn, and the man shot it. He said he was able to get within 30 feet of the animal. “They were well within their legal rights,” said CO Thomasen, noting that they properly contacted him immediately.

The DNR took possession of the wolf, which the family believes to be the same wolf that they had taken pictures of hanging around the horse pasture in August. The wolf was about 100 pounds. The horse owner said the wolf ’s coat was missing fur and it was thin enough that its hipbones were showing. However, Minnesota DNR Conservation Officer Dan Thomasen said the wolf looked reasonably healthy and an autopsy would not be done. If wolves are in good condition, the DNR retains the carcass and has it pelted or tanned to be used at parks or educational facilities.

Asked if it is unusual for a wolf encounter like this, CO Thomasen said there has been some predation up and down the North Shore in recent years, but he was not aware of other horses being killed. He said there have been reports of sheep and pets, but the fact that the wolf cornered the horse in the barn is unusual. He pointed out that a smaller horse like the pony would be easier prey.

“I would say it’s not exactly typical, but they will go where they can find something to eat,” he said.

Thomasen said there is a program through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for assistance in replacing livestock, which includes poultry, cattle and horses.

The family said they are aware of a pack of wolves in the area, but they have not had any problems with wolves before. In addition to the pony that was killed, the family has eight other horses, three dogs, rabbits and four free-range chickens.

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