DULUTH, Minn. (WCCO) -- The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging dog owners in the Duluth area to keep a close eye on their pets.
They say a hungry lone wolf attacked and killed a family dog, Leo, Tuesday afternoon on a trail at Brighton Beach just north of Duluth.
The owner of the 11-year old golden retriever-mix, Terry Irvin, said it was a path he walked at least three times a week. He says the dog always walked either by his side, or slightly behind him off-leash.
He says he never thought Leo was in any danger. So what was different on Tuesday?
"Nothing, until he didn't come back," Irvin said. "I got 100 yards up the trail -- or 100 feet -- and I whistled. I always walk slow, because I let him catch up, and he never came."
As he searched for the dog, he came back to where he last saw him and found blood spatter in the snow. Leo was only a bit further away.
"He was dead," Irvin said. "He was basically gutted."
At North Shore Veterinary Hospital, they examined the dog's remains and called the DNR. The investigating officer determined that the puncture wounds and tracks in the snow indicate a lone timber wolf killed the dog.
"I actually followed the tracks on the next road to see where he came out," Irvin said, "and he crossed that road, crossed that road and headed back into town."
Attacks like these are rare, but the DNR says wolves appear to be moving into more urban surroundings because they're having a harder time finding deer in more rural areas.
"Our advice during this time is keeping your pet on a leash," Jessica Bailey of North Shore Veterinary Hospital said. "Because you just have the most control over them that way. You can keep an eye on them. When you're out at night, have a flashlight."
Irvin says the attack has made him more aware of the danger.
"I thought this was a really safe place," he said. "You let your dog off the leash and let him do his thing and run around, but I was wrong."
The DNR says there were 14 reported cases of dogs killed by wolves in Minnesota last year. That's up from past years. They advise pet owners to keep their dogs on leashes when visiting areas where wildlife may be present.
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