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Every year we encroach further into the shrinking habitat of wild animals putting our children and dogs at risk, see photos and horrific risk reminders.





Nel Liquorman, Investigative Reporter


How to avoid wild animal attacks as we encroach further into their natural territory with children and dogs.  These real-life examples are horrific reminders.


Wolves have extremely strong neck muscles to bring down large prey. They can lift and throw prey larger than themselves. They have straighter shoulders, elbows are tight, and chests are narrow to help them cut through snow. Their feet are large with powerful claws. The wolf’s frame is long, lean and muscular.During the last decade, wild animal attacks have increased, with human behavior often blamed for attacks that were preventable. A close look at that behavior could protect your dog from predators, or even save a human life.


Understanding why and how wild animal attacks occur should make us consider our actions whenever we are near wildlife preservation areas or federal parks that include habitats for wild animals, especially if children or pets are with us.


Shortly before Christmas, wolves attacked three women who were walking their dogs on a trail near Anchorage, Alaska. In the Alaskan attack, the women miraculously escaped a pack of wolves because their dogs were lures for the wolves. Food is less plentiful in winter months and wolves are often hungry. Easier to kill than a moose or deer, a leashed dog won’t get away and can be spotted easily on trails.


In southern states, attacks by alligators occur when owners walk dogs near freshwater rivers and lakes. Normally feeding on wild animals that come for a drink, 'gators see a pet dog as lunch on a string, fast and easy.


Proliferation of a food source such as deer will lure coyotes, bobcats, and wolves into areas where they may not have been for decades. Homesites in those natural areas with plenty of wildlife have a great appeal to many of us but soon the predators learn to feed on cats and dog that are allowed outside.


It is wise to realize our behavior adds even more danger to the mix. Something as seemingly harmless as taking a dog for a walk near a small neighborhood lake, or allowing a child to toss a handful of Cherrios into the water to feed the fish puts that child, that pet and that adult person in danger.


If the dog heads towards a lake with gators, the kid will be in tow.Alligators feed on fish but when an alligator sees a bigger, easy-to-reach food source near the edge of a lake, it will no longer be focused on the fish. It can attack the dog, a child or even an adult in a flash with no warning! You’ve seen water buffalo easily pulled down by crocodiles, the only difference is that alligators live in the U.S.


Learn to protect yourself and your pet. Feeding wildlife is illegal, so don't ever feed a deer - a rutting moose may drop by for a snack! Avoid walking your dog in the same area ash predators, especially at feeding time, early morning or late evening. Predators, especially wolves or alligators will think that you have brought their lunch! When walking a large dog, don’t be tempted to hand the leash off to a child who weighs a lot less than the dog and may become the target of a hungry predator.


Native Southerners know little kids are easy targets for hungry gators. In July 2016 a toddler was seized by an alligator in Disneyland property in Orlando. Floridians know that 'gators are especially attracted to dogs and to be especially alert when around even small ponds.


Small dogs are also at risk of being taken by hawks or other birds of prey when they are allowed to run free in sparsely populated open areas. Eagles are respectful of humans but their power is as incredible on the ground as in the air.  Poisonous snakes inhabit most wildlife preserves. Moving around in search of food often bring them in contact with people and pets that live in nearby neighborhoods. Most snakes will just move away but be careful when walking your dog so that a surprised snake does not bite either of you.


You shouldn’t stop walking your dog out of fear of the critters in your neighborhood’s natural setting but be alert to your surroundings and being off-leash in the woods is rarely safe for a city dog. Bird dogs and other hunting breeds have a natural instinct that protects them and they are rarely fast food for hungry or aggressive wildlife. But city dogs, used to dog parks and pavement may not have tuned up radar to warn of wildlife predators.


So protect your child, your pet, and yourself by considering when, where, and how you will walk the dog.  Life is not just precious, it can be complicated due to our decisions to live near wildlife. So take common sense along on your nature walks with “man’s best friend”! EST 1998 © 16112002



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