By Ann McCreary
Mandy and Paul Schmekel say they’re keeping a close eye on their four young boys after two wolves attacked a family dog last week not far from their house near Twisp.
“It was scary,” said Mandy Schmekel, who saw the wolves standing over her injured dog on a hillside about 50 yards from the front porch of her home on Second Mile Road.
Schmekel had just returned home from taking three of her children to catch the school bus about 8 a.m. on March 18 when she heard one of her two dogs barking outside. Schmekel opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch and spotted her 10-year-old boxer, named Shelbie, standing on a nearby hillside with a wolf standing on either side of her.
“I yelled at them, and they looked at me for a few seconds and then they just kind of trotted off” into the trees, Schmekel said.
“I saw their faces and what I remember thinking is, ‘Oh, that’s not a dog and that’s not a coyote.’ It was an animal I’d never seen before.”
Schmekel said the wolves were about 6 inches taller and “fluffier, broader” than her 65-pound boxer.
The dog came inside and Schmekel said she noticed blood beginning to pool around Shelbie’s hindquarters. The Schmekels reported the attack and took Shelbie to a veterinarian for treatment.
Biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) came to the Schmekel’s home that morning and confirmed from tracks that the two animals Schmekel had seen were wolves.
Sgt. Dan Christensen, WDFW enforcement, said biologists believe the attack on the dog “was a submission gesture … because if they had wanted to kill it, I assume they had the power and strength to do it.”
Christensen said wildlife officials will monitor the area around the Schmekel’s home, which borders U.S. Forest Service land and territory known to be used by Lookout Pack gray wolves.
Schmekel said it is odd that Shelbie was on the hill near the home because the dog never goes there on her own, and is not an aggressive dog that chases other animals.
“I’ve never … seen her there, and we’ve been on this property four years,” Schmekel said. “We think they [the wolves] dragged her there. We don’t believe she walked up to those wolves.” The dog did not require stitches and is recovering from her injuries, Schmekel said.
The Schmekels are uneasy about letting their children — 9-year-old twin boys, and their 7- and 4-year-old brothers — play outside alone now.
“In the mornings they love to go out and play on the hard snow. But I haven’t been letting them do that because I’m getting ready for work and school and I can’t be out there watching them,” Schmekel said.
Wildlife officials recommended “being really loud” when outside and getting whistles for the boys, Schmekel said. “They said to never run away or turn your back” if they encounter a wolf, she said.
“I’m not saying we want to go out and find them,” Schmekel said.