Photo by Wendy Howell.
Arizona Game and Fish Department has completed its investigation on a dog that was injured in a possible attack March 1 in Williams.
The dog, a 73-pound Siberian husky, was found injured in the yard of a residence on East Hancock Ave.
The dog sustained serious injuries from the attack and was taken to Flagstaff for surgery. The owner said the dog may lose a leg.
The owner told Game and Fish officers he believed a mountain lion attacked the dog. However based on evidence and further investigation, Game and Fish officers do not believe the incident involved a mountain lion.
“I’m unsure of what did it,” said Arizona Game and Fish Officer Will Lemon. “But I don’t think it was a feline that attacked the dog.”
Lemon said evidence left at the scene were not common marks left by a mountain lion.
He said the tracks in the snow outside the enclosure where the animal was housed were not typical of a mountain lion. The owner showed Lemon tracks made by an animal outside of the yard where the dog was found injured.
“Dogs will leave claw marks in their tracks, which these tracks had,” Lemon said. “But mountain lion tracks don’t usually have claw marks.”
Lemon said there were also scratch marks on a screen at the residence the owner said were made by the animal that attacked the dog. Lemon said when mountain lions dig or scratch, their paws are wide apart with their digits spread.
“You can tell there are two strike points in most of the marks and they are side by side or almost overlapping,” he said. “Also, if it was a cat, their claws are very sharp and would puncture the screen. There were a few punctures in the screen, but they were very slight punctures.”
Lemon said the injuries to the dog were not consistent with mountain lion behavior. He said mountain lions typically attack the snout of their prey in an effort to suffocate it, or they attack the top or underside of the neck.
The bites inflicted from above, often sever the vertebral column and break the neck. Mountain lions also kill by biting through the skull.
“This animal was attacked on the lower right leg, the upper left and the chest,” Lemon said. “To me that kind of displays the behavior of the dog as being submissive. But a cat, even if the dog was submissive, would attack the throat.”
Lemon also said mountain lions typically grip their prey with their front legs and dig their claws into the sides of the animal.
“There was only one very small scratch on the back right leg of the dog,” Lemon said. “It didn’t look like something that came from claws. There weren’t multiple attack points trying to grip the animal.”
Lemon said after a lion has made a kill, the prey is usually dragged or carried into bushy areas and covered with litter. Lions then return to feed on a kill for several nights after. The dog that was attacked was not dragged from the residence.
“If they are going to eat something, it would take the animal away,” Lemon said. “Mountain lions will carry an entire deer away, and deer can weigh more than a 73-pound dog.”
Lemon said the department is unsure of what attacked and injured the dog, but does not believe a mountain lion was involved. However, he said there have been sightings of a mountain lion in the High School Hill area although no one has been able to photograph it.
“I have no clue what did that,” Lemon said. “It is concerning to me that we don’t know what it is.”
Lemon said he recommends that anyone who has a home that backs forest land to be especially careful of their pets. He said to not leave food out and to bring pets inside at night.
Anyone who sights a mountain lion should contact Game and Fish at (623) 236-7201 or the Williams Police Department at (928) 635-4421.