In This Issue...
F.I.D.O.: Daniel Annanack
F.I.D.O.: Mark Brazeau and Qimmiit Utirtut
Wolf Problems in Kuujjuaq
Inuit Dogs of Mawson Station
Differences in Mushing: Greenland and Arctic Canada, Part II
Inuit Produced Information Resources
In the News
Book Review: 1000 Days with Sirius
Product Review: 3Mô Precise Skin Stapler
IMHO: A Time for Action
The photo was taken near Tasiujaq, Nunavik at one of the caribou
hunting camps in August of 1999 Photo: Heiko Wittenborn
Amaruit (Wolves) Causing Havoc Among Dog Owners in Kuujjuaq
by Allen Gordon
The first reports of wolves killing dogs came late last winter when two pet dogs were killed and eaten by wolves. These dogs were about a mile apart and picketed just outside the village, where people have recreational cabins. Then in late August this year, there was a sudden increase in reports of dogs disappearing. Some people posted pictures of the missing dogs on public bulletin boards hoping for information.
The first detailed account of a wolf killing a dog was told to me by a friend who said that his co-worker had been awakened at 5:00 a.m. by a commotion outside her apartment. She looked outside her window and was very surprised to see a wolf making a meal out of a puppy.
There were other incidents this summer on the roads outside of Kuujjuaq, which are quite popular dog walking areas. On two separate occasions, owners saw their pets follow a scent into the willow brush only to never see them again. Another dog owner was driving a truck, with his dog running behind, and looked in his rear view mirror only to see his dog get ambushed and snatched by the jaws of a wolf that had been lurking on the side of the road.
By late September, three wolves had been shot and killed near town - one was a large female shot near someone's sled dog picket area, the other two were young wolves thought to have been born this past spring. Although these wolves, presumed to be the ones killing pet dogs, were dead, in the fall sled dogs started being attacked. A friend, who recently started raising sled dogs again, had a number of pups, under six months old, picketed just across the road from my dogs. This area is about three kilometers (two miles) outside of Kuujjuaq, off the main road that leads towards the float plane base. Within couple of weeks of placing his dogs there, he lost three puppies in two nights, so he decided to re-locate the rest of his dogs closer to town - only to loose two more during the next couple of weeks. Another longtime musher lost three dogs and another lost one young dog.
Very recently my cousin, who also has just begun to raise sled dogs, lost a female that was in the middle of having her puppies. The bitch probably tried to fend off the intruder only to fall victim herself. Four puppies survived and he took these orphans home for bottle feeding. Presently only two pups remain alive. The next night, I patrolled around my dogs and then over to my cousin's dogs (since they are only two miles from mine), when the person riding with me spotted what he first thought was a dog on a small hill. We shone a bright spotlight towards it and its eyes reflected a ghostly glow from the hill above my cousin's dogs. The wolf had come back hoping for another easy meal but we had interrupted its plans. We gave a short chase and saw the wolf once again as it dashed across the road and disappeared into the trees.
I've been very fortunate not to lose dogs so far, but it has been stressful wondering each day if any of my dogs have been killed. I started raising sled dogs few years ago and from June until the end of October, I keep the dogs on a small island just across the village. This has kept them safe for a while.
I know that wolves have been near my dogs' winter tethering area. One night, I saw fresh tracks in the snow just a couple of hundred feet from the picket area. From that night on I released my boss dog from his chain hoping that he would deter wolves from coming over for a meal. A village elder, who also has sled dogs, mentioned to me that he lets his boss dog run free. Recently, he found him with cuts and lacerations, presumably after a recent battle with a wolf.
The Inuit have the exclusive right to harvest wolves and 100 to 300 are taken annually in Nunavik. Sightings and encounters with wolves near Kuujjuaq, however, were extremely rare in the past. As the population of caribou increased in Nunavik at the end of 1970s and 1980s, wolf numbers also grew dramatically. The caribou migration has been sporadic over the last few years and this fall the herds were very far to the west of our village. Some people believe this is why the wolves have turned to eating dogs. So far, at least seventeen dogs have been killed by wolves since last winter.
I had a chat with two hunters who were out on the land a few kilometers from the village. One reported seeing tracks from a pack of fifteen wolves, and the other saw tracks from a pack of six. It may be awhile yet before we can hope that the wolves have gone and left our dogs alone. In the meantime, we must be vigilant to protect our teams.