The first dog of Grand Marais is recovering from a rumble with wolves last week in the woods just outside of town.
The dog, a 65-pound female Weimaraner named Blue, was running on the snow-covered Pincushion Mountain Trail with its owner, Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux, snowshoeing not far behind. About 2½ miles from the trailhead, DeCoux heard Blue scream.
He called for her, but when she didn't return he took off running and came upon a scary sight: two massive, healthy-looking gray wolves had Blue cornered, one in front of her and one behind.
DeCoux screamed as he ran toward them, so focused on his dog that he didn't even think about his own safety. His yelling distracted the wolves for a split second so Blue could escape. The wolves ran after her.
"My dog is fast as hell," DeCoux said. But the wolves, which he described as "small pony-sized," looked like they were trotting as they were running just behind her.
When Blue circled back to DeCoux, the wolves went in another direction.
Blue ended up with a puncture wound on her left rear leg and another on her right front neck, injuries that were being treated with antibiotics.
"It's pretty clear they did the one-two punch," DeCoux said.
It was only later that DeCoux had more time to think about what had happened. Wolves typically run at the sight of humans, he knows. And he had mistakenly thought the large tracks that he saw in the snow that day weren't fresh. He believes Blue may have tracked the wolves' scent, wanting to play.
Though Blue still has swelling, she was frolicking while out on a walk with the mayor again Tuesday morning.
Wolves are intolerant of domesticated dogs because they view them as competition for their food sources, according to the International Wolf Center in Ely. If a wolf comes near, shouting and throwing things at it should help scare it away, the center advises.
Wolves are facing a difficult winter with limited snow, making it harder to catch prey, according to the center. More than 25 dogs were killed by wolves in Wisconsin last year, most of them during bear hunts.
Evidence of wolves in the Grand Marais area — tracks and scat — is common and sometimes appears even in town. But witnessing wolves attack anything is extremely unusual.
The mountain-bike trail that DeCoux and Blue were using doesn't require that dogs be leashed, he said, and 2-year-old Blue, a hunting breed, needs to run to get her energy out. People in rural areas use the woods, where permitted, as spaces for dogs to run, he explained, and most never have a problem.
DeCoux said he knows some people call wolves a problem for attacking dogs, and others will blame people for letting their dogs loose where there are wolves.
"I accept the consequence that she got attacked by wolves," he said. "That's a very real reality here."
DeCoux is relieved that Blue will be OK, he said, and the dog has learned to stay closer to him now.
He doesn't blame the wolves, either: "I think this actually is a really good sign that the wolves are healthy like that."
Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102