COEUR d'ALENE - Two wolves Tuesday night or Wednesday morning attacked and ate a dog chained up outside a home in the Blue Creek area five miles east of Coeur d'Alene, the dog's owners and a state wildlife official said.
"They literally pulled the dog out of his collar," said Gary Finney, an avid hunter and outdoorsman. The dog, an Australian shepherd heeler mix, was owned by Finney's sister, Jane Holte, and was chained up at her home on the 400 block of South Newell Road.
"It's obvious that they ate him," Finney said.
He showed up to investigate after being called by Holte.
Finney pointed out where the two wolves walked, and bounded through snow to the dog. He said there were two sets of tracks.
"There's a good chance it's a male and female," Finney said.
He searched the property for the dog's remains, but all that was left was blood splatter in the area.
An official with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said Finney is a reliable source and qualified to determine whether wolves are responsible for the kill. A report by the agency will be completed to document the incident. Fish and Game officials didn't visit the scene of the attack Wednesday, but were contacted by Finney.
"Gary is as capable of judging wolf tracks as anybody," said Phil Cooper, a spokesman for the Fish and Game's Coeur d'Alene office. "They might have consumed the dog. In fact, they probably did."
Cooper said the killing was a "territorial matter," not a predatory one.
Finney killed a wolf on a hunt in Idaho a couple years ago, and said he has seen about 40 wolves in the wild.
Holte said she has seen wolves cross through a clearing near her home.
Finney said, "I was just hunting (wolves) this morning," before his sister called about the killing of her dog.
"There are numerous wolves on the outskirts of Coeur d'Alene," Finney said. "People need to be aware, so they can take appropriate precautions."
The dog, which was a year and a half old and weighed about 40 pounds, was collared to a 20-foot long cable secured to a utility pole. The dog, Buckwheat, had a house with straw bedding, about 40 yards from Holte's home.
She went outside to feed the dog Wednesday morning and discovered him missing, then found the bloody evidence of his death.
"It just makes me so sad," Holte said. "It just creeps me out. These are killing machines."
She said she didn't hear a sound during the night.
In a separate incident, four wolves were accused of attacking and killing a dog just north of Wallace last week. State officials later said they didn't find clear evidence that wolves were responsible.
Fish and Game official Josh Stanley said he found no evidence of wolf tracks where that dog was killed, and another dog suffered wounds to the face.
Stanley said he tracked a 100-yard radius around the home near Wallace and only found tracks resembling those of dogs or coyotes.