Wolves in Estonia have killed close to 20 dogs over the autumn and early winter, according to a report on ERR current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera. Experts blame malnourishment, though are at a loss to explain it, saying there are no food shortages in the sparsely-populated forest areas that wolves usually inhabit.
Security video footage taken in a Raplamaa back-yard this autumn showed three wolves entering the premises and frolicking about with two resident dogs. The footage circulated on social media; however not all such lupine-canine interaction ends as happily. On man living near Vaida, south of Tallinn, lost his six-and-a-half-year-old West Siberian dog while hunting. The dog had picked up a reindeer trace, but later encountered wolves. Half and hour later, it was found dead, the owner told Aktuaalne kaamera.
August Kuuse who breeds West Siberians at Vaida said that many hunters no longer use dogs to hunt smaller wildlife in particular, such as raccoon dogs (kährik) and pine martens, which also should mean an abundance of such stock in the wild as a food source for wolves.
Väino Lill, chair of the Tihemetsa hunting society in Pärnu County, said three wolves attacked a dachshund in plain sight of the dog's owner.
"Fortunately, the dog survived, since the owner was quite close by and managed to scare the wolves away, albeit with a gun," Lill said.
The Environment Agency (Keskonnaagentuur) told Aktuaalne kaamera that wolves in Rapla, Jõgeva and Järva Counties are known to have killed 16 dogs, even though attacks on animals as a whole by wolves has been falling. The total number of attacks on all animals has decreased from a few hundred to about 50 in a year, the agency said, with attacks on sheep in particular falling.
"Dog attacks have grown significantly over the past few years," said Aimar Rakko, head of the hunting and aquatic life bureau at the Environmental Board said.
"Why wolves are attacking and killing dogs now is hard to say. There have been different reasons for this in different areas. Most lkely it has become easier for them to make attacks. In some areas, wolves also mix up different food sources, as they don't have enough food at present." Rakko continued.
Hunters also think that wolf censuses underestimate numbers, adding that the animals' character has changed for whatever reason.
"With wolves attacking dogs in the forest close to their owners – I have no recollection of hunting dogs being attacked like this in the past, in my 35 years' experience in hunting," said Väino Lill.
The original Aktuaalne kaamera segment (in Estonian) is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte