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9/21/2012 4:44:00 AM
Attack on Hazelhurst horse not confirmed as a wolf attack
USDA Wildlife Services official says there's not enough evidence

Craig Turk
Outdoors Writer/Photographer

It doesn’t look like owners of an area horse ranch are going to be compensated for damages in a claim that their horse was injured during a what they believed was wolf attack.

Hazelhurst residents and proprietors of Sunre’h Ranch, Renee and Scott Krosschell, said their 9-year-old, 1,100-pound mare, Chica, was injured in the attack during the early morning of Sept. 8.

Renee Krosschell heard that the outlook for being compensated for the attack didn’t look promising. She said her husband, Scott, talked to Jim Tharman, a USDA Wildlife Services wildlife specialist that investigated the scene at their ranch. 

“They said, ‘It’s probably going to be coyote or something else.’ They don’t know what to think of it,” Krosschell said. “This is crazy. What are these, trick coyotes? They’re trying to pin it on the coyotes because they don’t want to pay.”

At around 1:40 a.m. Sept. 8, the Krosschells were awakened to the screams of their mare and rushed to its aid. They claim to have broken up a wolf attack when they approached the pasture, which contained five horses.

The mare that sustained injury had punctures in its hind legs, a cut on its left front shoulder and a torn vulva which required veterinary care. Krosschell said the horse also had what appeared to be saliva on its back after the attack.

The Krosschells can be reimbursed for damages if the claim that wolves attacked the horse is substantiated. They want the medical expense paid.

“It’s $410. I’m not asking for any more,” Krosschell said. “I just want the vet bill paid and [if the] wolves come back — which they have been, but no other attacks yet — but if they come back ... to shoot on sight.”

She said if their case was verified as a wolf attack, the rule of thumb is that permits to defend against wolf attacks could be given out within a one-mile radius of the site.

“They don’t want to do that,” she said.

Krosschell said she plans to keep fighting for her cause. She has gathered evidence. In addition to photographs of the mare’s injuries, she photographed and measured canine tracks at the scene, 

“Don’t tell me that coyotes’ feet are three inches wide,” Krosschell said.

She noted that her own dog, a 90-pound shepherd, doesn’t leave tracks as large as the ones she found. She also said the veterinarian that cared for the horse, Scott McKay of Rhinelander, thought the bites were too large to be from coyotes.

“Looking at the bite marks, they’re two inches wide,” Krosschell said. “He (McKay) said, ‘No coyote is going to have a two-inch wide bite mark.’”

She said McKay can’t confirm the bites came from a wolf, only that he believes they’re canine.

Krosschell also doesn’t think a coyote could have even taken the bite out of the injured vulva. She doesn’t believe the horse could have been laying down, either.

“She’s going to jump up the first crack of a twig or anything. And the other thing is other horses would have alerted her before the attack ever happened. They would have seen the wolves coming,” she said.

Krosschell said Tharman didn’t look at her injured mare while investigating the scene.

“All he did was look at the pictures. He didn’t even look at the horse. He didn’t measure the bite marks on the legs, he didn’t do anything like that,” she said.

Krosschell said she hears wolves every two to three days. She said area residents are familiar with a pack of three that includes one black-colored wolf and two grays.

“I love the wolves. I think they’re beautiful animals. But [they are] too close to home right now,” she said.

Krosschell said she also worries about the safety of children. She believes the wolves have grown too bold.

“You’re just looking for an accident and somebody to get hurt,” she said. “For them to take on an 1,100-pound horse ... my kid, he’s only a hundred pounds, and for a 150-pound wolf to come and grab him would be nothing,” she said.

Krosschell planned on continuing to gather evidence. 

USDA response

Robert Willging, USDA Wildlife Services District Supervisor in Rhinelander, said he talked to Renee Krosschell about the incident Tuesday morning.

“We’re calling the complaint unconfirmed,” he said. “What unconfirmed means is we’re not saying it can’t be a wolf, but we’re saying we don’t have enough evidence to confirm.”

Wehn asked if Tharman had looked at the injured horse, Willging said, “According to Renee [Krosschell], he looked at the photos. But the horse had been sutured, had been treated by the vet by the time we looked at it.”

He said they like to see injuries as soon as possible in depredation cases.

“Whatever happened to this horse, we can’t confirm it as a wolf depredation case.”

Willging doesn’t deny an attack took place. He said it’s uncertain what caused the injuries to the Krosschell’s mare.

“There’s really not enough evidence to point toward anything right now. There’s predators out there, domestic dogs — they do attack livestock. Coyotes generally attack smaller livestock than a horse,” Willging said.

“We’re not calling it a coyote attack, we’re calling it unconfirmed. There’s just not enough evidence to say.”

He said cases like this usually yield more definite results.

“Most times we’ll have depredations that are really characteristic of the species that caused the injuries ... in this case we don’t have enough of that,” Willging said. 

“A lot of people think, ‘If you’re saying it’s not wolf it has to be something else,’” he said. “We’re not saying it can’t be a wolf, we’re saying we don’t have evidence to confirm a wolf depredation.”

He said they treat it like a crime scene. This scene just didn’t give up enough evidence to pin blame on any one animal.

“Something happened to the horse, definitely. And we like to be able to confirm depredations when we can, but every so often we have one that just is inconclusive,” Willging added.

He indicated that wildlife services was not completely done checking into some of the concerns brought up by Krosschell.

“She talks about wolves in the area, and I’m not disputing that. What I would  like to do is try to verify the presence of wolves in her area,” he said.

Willging said they have used trail cameras in the past and that wildlife services could put some out for surveillance in the area around the attack. He said Renee Krosschell seemed open to the idea.

“I told her, too, anything she sees, if she sees wolf scat or gets a good track, to protect it and we’ll come down and take a look at it,” he said.

Willging said Krosschell mentioned the wolves as a possible safety threat and said some effort could be made to address the concern.

“If they are there and they are acting boldly, if we could confirm that, maybe we’d have some options after that,” he said.

Willging said he’d like to talk with DNR staff about what they know about wolves in the area and maybe solicit their aid in finding out more about the Hazelhurst pack.

Jim Tharman was not available to comment on the case.

Craig Turk may be reached at cturk@lakelandtimes.com

Related Stories:
• Hazelhurst ranch owners believe wolves attacked mare

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