Horse attacked by wolf
Stable owner on Kraft Creek cautioning others after one of her animals was severely injured.
Theresa Matte and her 15-yearold horse, Finn, are still shaken up after a wolf attacked and severely injured the animal earlier this month.
The incident took place on Jan. 2 at her riding facility, Standard Stables, on Kraft Creek Road. Matte recalls she and other staff went out that morning to check on the horses and do their normal chores, only to find Finn standing near a pool of blood from a large bite that was deep enough to expose muscle.
“We noticed Finn was standing at the back of the field while the rest of the horses were eating, which seemed a bit unusual,” she recalled. “There were actually crows or ravens around his feet, which was also very unusual, as well.
“One of the kids went out to get him and realized how badly he was injured, and we could tell the area where he had actually been injured, by the amount of blood on the ground.”
She immediately called her vet to find out how to care for the injured animal, before proceeding to call the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and some local hunters and trappers.
With the help of Steeve Lemieux, president of the Timmins Fur Council, they were able to determine that it was indeed a wolf that was responsible, judging by the way the horse was attacked and the location of the injury.
“The way that wolves attack is that they will usually try to incapacitate an animal by jumping up on their hindquarters, their neck or their legs and taking a chunk out of them,” Matte said. “Because all the muscle was pulled out, you could tell something had bitten and dragged it. The bite was also up really high, because he’s such a tall horse, and typically a coyote wouldn’t jump that high.”
Matte also spotted wolf tracks the next day.
“The horses weren’t outside any- more after that and the next night, we were able to see wolf tracks that came back, as if they were looking for him to see if he had gotten tired enough that they could, at that point, take him down,” she said.
When dealing with larger animals, Lemieux confirmed that wolves will typically injure their prey and then come back later, when infection has set in and the animal is weakened, to finish the job.
Although Matte recalled that a bear had attacked one of her horses nearly 20 years ago, she said this is the first time they have had an incident with a wolf. “We’ve heard them,” she admitted, “but this is the first time we’ve ever had anything come this close to the property.”
Lemieux said the wolf likely came so close to Matte’s property simply because it spotted an “easy meal.”
“The horse has nowhere to go, he’s all fenced off, they don’t have to chase it that far,” he explained. “For a moose, if they don’t catch it within the first 100 metres, they let it go but with this horse, it has nowhere to go.”
An experienced trapper, Lemieux said he has caught his fair share of wolves before.
He explained the type of wolves common to this area, Great Lakes-Boreal Wolves, typically roam a widespread area in packs, searching for food while simultaneously defending the boundaries of their territory from other wolves.
He also said there are “a lot of wolf packs around town” and that they have a “very healthy population” right now.
He is working with other trappers and hunters who will set up snares and attempt to remove the pack or draw it away from the farm.
Matte laments that she will unfortunately have to keep her horses inside at night, for their own safety, until she knows the threat has been eliminated.
Even then, she’s not sure she will ever feel secure having her horses and other animals outside anymore, even though she likes being able to give them as much fresh air as possible.
“I can’t even say in the future if I will ever consider it safe to have my horses out overnight again,” she said. “If they can tell me that they’ve trapped the entire pack from the area then maybe I will try again, but I don’t know if I’ll sleep well until that point.”
Lemieux said that it can be hard to determine if or when a wolf pack will return to an area again. However, he said they typically won’t continue to come back somewhere if the food source has disappeared, and that keeping the animals inside may deter them.
He also said that it is rare for a wolf to ever attack a human.
“I wouldn’t really be concerned as a person,” he said. “Myself, as a trapper, I’ve never seen a live wolf other than when they’re caught in my trap. If you walk by them, they are probably going to run away or hide from you.”
If you have livestock or pets on your property, however, both he and Matte stress that you should take precautions.
“It’s a word of caution to anyone with dogs or livestock, that live out in the country, to keep an eye out for wolf tracks or, if they hear of wolves in their neighbourhood, call up a hunter or trapper, call the MNRF, let them know there is something there before something happens,” said Matte. “I know a lot of people really like wolves, they are very beautiful animals. But, they have to also understand that they do have to be trapped and hunted because when they are hungry, anything looks good to them – be it a horse, your dog, a cat, anything.”
The MNRF suggests keeping animals inside or in a kennel at night, keeping pet food and garbage secured indoors, and to consider installing electric fencing and removing bush and forest cover that can help conceal predators to help deter wolves.
Keeping your yard well-lit can also help to deter wolves from approaching.
If you encounter a wolf, the ministry stresses that you should never approach or touch it. Instead, it is suggested that you do not turn your back or run, but rather, back away from it while remaining calm.
If the wolf tries to approach, stand tall, wave your hands, and make lots of noise and use whistles and personal alarm devices to frighten it.
If the wolf poses an immediate threat or danger to public safety – call 911.
A wolf attacked 15-year-old Finn the horse while he was outside at Standard Stables on Kraft Creek Road earlier this month. His owner, Theresa Matte, said he is expected to make a full recovery aside physically, but is psychologically still on edge. She is advising all livestock owners in the area to be on the lookout and to take precautions to ensure the safety of their animals.