On Saturday, February 18, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) responded to reports of two large domestic dogs attacking elk near the town of Chubbuck, Idaho. By the time a warden arrived on the scene, the dogs had badly mauled two elk calves. According to IDFG spokesperson Jennifer Jackson, the warden was forced to shoot and kill the dogs in order to prevent further damage to an elk herd that was wintering nearby. He then shot and killed both elk calves in order to put the animals out of their misery.

“The dogs were chasing the elk and had separated those two claves from the group,” Jackson told Field & Stream. “By the time our officer snow-machined out there, those dogs were already on the calves. He had to assess the situation and make a decision very quickly.” After dispatching the dogs, the warden identified and notified the owner about the incident, the IDFG reported in a recent press release. Jackson said the elk calves were injured so bad during the mauling that no recovery was possible.

In Idaho, it is illegal for domestic dogs to harass wildlife. State statutes authorize any peace officer or game warden to destroy any dog found running at large and actively tracking, pursuing, harassing, attacking, or killing any big game animal.

“We really wish there was a different outcome here, but our officer had to react immediately to this situation,” Jackson said. “There were many other elk in the area, including more calves.” 

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Harsh winter weather has made life challenging for eastern Idaho’s big game animals in recent months. Deep snow and prolonged cold fronts have impacted not just elk, but mule deer, whitetail deer, and antelope herds as well. The young of the year are particularly vulnerable, the IDFG says.

The department asks that all pet owners keep their dogs under control and prevent them from roaming free in areas that are home to wintering big game or other wildlife species. “Even friendly pets can attack when wildlife is nearby and predatory instincts kick in,” the IDFG stated.