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Dogs and Wildlife (Bears, Cougars, Snakes)


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We live in British Colombia, Canada. I used to live in the Netherlands where the most 'wildest' animal was probably....... Eh.... a bee?


These days, we live about an hour away from Grizzly Bear habitat, black bears are everywhere and cougars (mountain lions) are also not unusual. How do other people living in areas like this, deal with dogs vs wildlife? How does your dog respond to animals like this? How did they get used to it?

 

So far, we haven't encountered any of them yet but I know this will happen and it worries me. Nelson isn't very good with any kind of large animal. He hates horses and will just run at them and bark. We've been around them multiple times (he is always on leash in these situations). How do you get a dog used to this? Because he has some Maremma in him (guard dog who are bred to scare of cougars and wolfs), I would be afraid he'd go run after it.


I guess that, in the end it is all about teaching the reliable recall, so that the dog will always come no matter what - something we haven't achieved yet....

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No first hand experience with our dogs but we visit family on Vancouver Island whose log cabin is surrounded by forest. Their PB / Lab mix roams freely and seems to get on OK with the local bear population. He did survive a cougar attack though because of his thick leather collar preventing fatal damage to his neck.

 

Another family member elsewhere on the island takes her 2 big dogs with her when she goes riding to deter cougar. I'm not sure if they've ever had to take action or whether their presence alone is sufficient.

 

You can't beat a reliable recall wherever you go but as far as horses are concerned, what worked for me was to keep far enough away so that my horse hating dogs wouldn't react and reward them each time they looked at a horse and then looked back at me. Gradually I decreased the distance. They still don't like horses much, which is sensible when you're only dog size, but they don't freak out as they used to and I don't have to call them back until the horse is quite near.

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I have always heard that grizzlies hate dogs and will come after them. Don't know how true that is. I know I read that you shouldn't ever take a dog into grizzly country.

 

I would just make sure that we didn't encounter the wildlife. Even small wild animals can really tear a dog up.

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We have been fortunate that our dogs have never had a bad run in with a wild animal and we've had several dogs over the years that were runners with poor recalls.

 

It seems to me wild animals don't want to be seen, if they can hear or smell you coming they will leave the area if they can. Always a bit disappointing to come across fresh sign and know an animal was just there, but probably for the best. I try to make some noise randomly when we are on trails, try not to walk straight into the wind so animals can smell us coming, and keep my senses very alert for signs of animals.

 

I've had several dogs over the years whom simply couldn't be let off w/out the risk of running away. They always came back, actually rather amazing they always came back to where my dad and I left the vehicle around the same time the following day or days. Now that I am an adult if a dog can't be trusted, they don't get let off leash, but you know how it goes when your following your parents ways.

 

Bears have never worried me too much, I have always thought of them as shy and have whitnessed more that one moving away from us over the years, although we dont have grizzlies. Cougars make me nervous, I stay away from areas where there are known sitings, not that it means they aren't there.

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Until recently, I had mountain lions, bears, wolves, coyotes, etc in my yard quite frequently. You either train your dogs to ignore them and come immediately when called, or keep them on a leash.

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We live in a bear/mountain lion/coyote/raccoon heavy area, and surprisingly the scariest animals are, by far, the coyotes. We have had run ins with all of the animals, and all but the coyotes just flee as soon as they've been seen. Sure I wouldn't trust my dogs AT ALL to intentionally go near them, but they're not really the ones I fear. Plus our dogs have always very quickly gotten the sense of "these animals are big and scary and could kill me" and thus have little desire to be around them. The coyotes on the other hand, they're smart. The packs where I live always send one member out to try and lure the dogs to the rest of the group. Their body language is incredibly inviting, unlike the other animals. They almost 'flirt' with the dogs, only encouraging the desire to chase. It took a good bit of training for our dogs to learn to ignore them. We'll get a couple of warning barks and some raised hackles, but no chasing.

 

So long story short, a strong recall is your best bet. Additionally I think you just really need to know your dogs. Our little spaniel (bless his heart) is dumber than a box of rocks and I am positive that he would be busy chasing butterflied and would be snatched up before he realized he was in any danger. Our bigger dogs on the other hand, are much better at reading other animals and people. Some dogs will naturally keep their distance, others have a strong prey drive and chase anything that moves. A good recall will save a life!

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Went out at about 10pm for an evening pasture check. I had to walk through the front pasture to get to the back (wooded) where my goats were living. Took all the dogs with me. Saw eyes glowing in my head lamp's beam. Counted one, two three, four, five, six. Six? OH SHIT! It's moving in a very feline way! OMG, the mountain lion is back! Heart is pounding in chest. Wait, why are the dogs barking? Then I hear a meow. Damn cat.

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I agree that coyotes are the most scary (in my book). Most other animals will run away, but coyotes can have 'intent'. Intent to get you - or your dog. And the fact that they travel in packs hikes up the scary factor.

 

My neighbors are avid hunters, always out in the woods for the various hunting seasons. (They will hunt our property.) They have been up in their tree blinds, or even sitting on the ground against a tree, when a bear will walk within 20 feet. That doesn't bother them, but hearing the yipping of coyotes, particularly when they are getting closer, is very much a cause for alarm. Even they will get the willies and move out of an area if they feel they are being tracked by coyotes.

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We have black bear, Florida panthers, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, and foxes. The panthers are a problem if you are riding a horse. The foxes, raccoons, and bobcats will come eat our chickens even in broad daylight and carry rabies. But the coyotes are truly scary.

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Gentle Lake: I just don't take my dogs out where wildlife is a problem. Easy for me to say because I live in the city. And we don't go on hikes in the country. I have enough trouble with the wildlife that lurks around my backyard. So many raccoons and possums. Also foxes. There are coyotes around but I've only seen one that was alive. But I have seen them dead so I know they are there.

 

When I used to take the dogs up to Smithville Lake to run and swim I had all kinds of problems. One time they all took off after deer. Tay almost was drowned by the goose and she also got into it with a fox. Bandit grabbed every rotten thing he could find. I just gave up. It was too dangerous. Now if we are out where there are wildthings the dogs stay on a leash.

 

Dog/wildlife situations can get really bad in just a couple of seconds. I'm afraid.

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Tay swam right up on a goose nest. Not a good idea. I was afraid the goose was going to drown her. I was just getting ready to jump in and go grab her when she managed to get far enough away that the goose left her. Water wasn't very deep so I could have gotten ahold of her if I had to.

 

Geese are big enough to really do some damage.

 

We are about 100 miles from Squaw Creek refuge. There were about 1.2 million snow geese up there this year. It keeps going up every year. I didn't get a chance to go visit but it is really worth the trip to go see. It's amazing.

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We have bears, coyotes, foxes, bobcats and mountain lions in our (Nevada) area. I agree that coyotes are by far the scariest here, because they'll bait and taunt a dog until it runs after them - and then the whole pack shows up to ambush him. But if you have grizzly bears ... those would rocket WAY to the top of my list. You just don't want to go there. Grizzly are territorial and they know they are the top of the food chain, so avoidance would be key.

I recommend two things.

 

1) Work on a rock solid recall. If he's at all food motivated, carry treats with you on your walks and randomly call him for treats. But also work on a NO, LEAVE IT kind of recall for emergencies. And again, reward him when he comes back to you.

 

2) Bell him on walks. I've seen various kinds of bells on gun dog sites, but what I like best are just the good old fashioned jingle bell style bells. They are not expensive and they make a nice loud noise. That way the resident varmints will hear him coming and you can keep track of what he's doing if he trots out of your sight.

I think you're right, that the LGD breeding him may make him more apt to react loudly and forcefully towards any critters you may meet. With black bears, that will probably just make them want to avoid him and with coyotes it may give them second thoughts. But again, you want that good recall and an understanding that NO means no and that he is to return to you, not go in pursuit. If you're at all concerned, you might have him on a long line during wilderness walks for a while until you feel his recalls are pretty good.

 

Also, don't be out in the woods after midday, if there is a predator concern. Most varmints will start to move as the sun goes down, because that's when the deer and other game animals start to move.

I honestly don't think dogs ever "get used to" other predators like bears, coyotes and lions. It's not natural and I wouldn't want a dog to be lackadaisical about them. So, a nice loud bell and a good recall are what I'd think are good preventatives.


I hope I don't sound alarmist! I've just lived many years in the western US rural areas where dogs and wild things were part of daily life. :)

Hope this helps!

~ Gloria

 


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I have always heard that grizzlies hate dogs and will come after them. Don't know how true that is. I know I read that you shouldn't ever take a dog into grizzly country.

 

I would just make sure that we didn't encounter the wildlife. Even small wild animals can really tear a dog up.

Too right.

 

I've seen raccoons go after a dog, and certainly coyotes. I had a 7 mo. old Collie torn into pieces not 300 yards from my parent's house by a bobcat.

 

I've never understood why people will take a dog - other than a hunting dog - "into the woods." But people do it all the time. Often enough they come home dogless.

 

People who wouldn't dream of sashaying around Kenya with a pet dog think nothing of taking a dog to Yosemite or some other place with bear, wolf, coyote, mountain lions and bobcats.

 

Do they have fun? Sure! Do they look great gallivanting around the wilderness? Sure! But it's very unsafe. I say leave 'em at home when you want to go to such places.

 

YMMV

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It's been a while but we like to take our dogs hiking but it's always on designated trails and they are always on lead. Personally, I believe some people don't belong out amongst the wildlife. (I'm not referring to anybody on the boards.) Several years ago DH & I went to Pigeon Forge, TN. While there, we decided to drive over to Gatlinburg one day. There were about 4 cars in front of us when a cub ran across the road in front of the 1st car. There was a pull off so naturally everybody started pulling over. Before DH could bring the car to a stop, the lady in the car in front of us jumped out with her camera. I yelled "LADY! GET BACK IN THE CAR!! YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE MAMA BEAR IS!! Later, when I realized what I had done, I apologized to DH for yelling in his ear. :rolleyes:

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Make noise! Most problems arise when the wildlife is surprised by your presence. Make some noise so they know you're coming.

 

I'm fortunate enough to have two dogs that don't chase deer. We often come across them, sometimes when the dogs are off-leash. The dogs just hang back with me and watch until the deer runs off...then they go sniff the spot where the deer was. I've not encountered bear or cougars while the dogs have been with me, but I hope I get the same reaction if we ever do.

 

I worry more about moose. I've seen several close to home, in town and in the fields. My dogs don't mess with them either, but moose do as they please. They don't scare easily like the deer. When we see a moose we walk back the way we came.

 

Occasionally we come across coyotes. My dogs are big enough that the coyotes around here don't caret to mess with them (there's easier prey). One of the many reasons I do not want a small dog...they are prey for the coyotes and large birds.

 

Bear learned his lesson about skunks the hard way and it seems to have stuck. Porcupines and raccoons are another issue...so far we've managed to avoid the porcupines. There was a raccoon hanging out in the yard this winter, but fortunately it seems to have moved on.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nanda, I used to live in Vancouver. Even the people hiking the mountains often had bear bells on their packs (which I found quite obnoxious, though understandable). Liz P already gave you the best answer; but when I would let my Lab loose in the mountains I had a bell on him. I don't know if it helped protect him or not; but it helped me keep track of him. As OurBoys pointed out, keeping a dog on lead is a good option, even in the mountains. The first few years I had my sled dog, I couldn't trust her off lead (or so I thought). So we hiked the mountains on-lead, except for tight spots and bushwhacking.

 

Even in the city it pays to be watchful. A friend's cat got grabbed by a coyote right in front of her; and we lived not far from Cambie and Oak (area of 20th and 22nd). Where we live now, in town, a coyote made off with most of our backyard hens one night.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Nelson actually does have a bear bell, which I put on him when we go hiking. When we go deep into the backcountry I keep him on a leash these days. So far we haven't encountered coyotes yet, but I know they are in the neighbourhood, even in the central city area where I am located. I think getting a super reliable recall is going to be key. Even though I can manage him most of the time (with a leash or by going to 'safe' areas), there is still a chance for an encounter almost anywhere.

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I grew up in the woods, We had our rules for going in the woods. 1 make noise, talk, laugh, whistle, clap your hands, just make noise often enough that a wild critter would know you are about to intrude on him. 2 I was not permitted to share my lunch i brought with me with anyone but my own dogs, no wild animals ( got in trouble at age 7 doing that ) 3 always bring at least one of my dogs with me. I grew up with these rules, my kids learned the same rules. Now things have changed. Poison snakes spiders and brown bears were not anything that one would find in Upper Michigan So I do pay a lot of attention on what may be under the brush that the beagle is about to go sniffing, I am not going anywhere where the bear are known to be But other then that I did not grow up with a fear of wildlife, I learned to respect and to give them their space, as well as what to do should I ever come across them.

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