Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Encounter with a Feral Dog Pack

Last evening at the Pheasant Branch Prairie I decided to take a little side trail through the red osier dogwood to look for American Woodcock. My excursion abruptly ended when I apparently startled a large animal that went crashing through the dense tangle of willow and dogwood from about twenty feet away. Then I heard another. At first I thought it might be deer, but having flushed them numerous times in the conservancy, I detected something different about these particular animals.

Curious but cautious, I made my way back onto the main trail and caught a flash of copper through an opening in the dense tangle – it was definitely too small for a deer. From what I could tell by the sounds around me, there were at least four individual animals and then I realized they weren't running away from me, but making systematic passes up and down the line of habitat, as if hunting. A little nervous, I began a slow retreat. Then suddenly, a rather haggard looking black dog appeared at the edge from about 50 feet away and gave me the most discomforting stare I've ever received from an animal. Then another dog appeared, gave a look, but quickly resumed hunting. It was a pack of feral dogs.

The black dog also rejoined hunting with the others, flushing American Tree Sparrows as they tore through the thicket. From a safer distance, I watched the dogs aggressively hunt – probably looking for rabbits or other small mammals. I know packs of feral dogs can be dangerous even to humans, so I reported the incident to Dane County Parks. It's a little disconcerting to think I was a mere twenty feet away from one of the dogs – I shudder to think what might have happened if that first dog had seen me. I'm grateful that my instincts warned me to move out of the area.

Link: U.S. Facing Feral-Dog Crisis

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