Feb 19, 2014 11:41 AM by Dan Cimmino - Missoula
MISSOULA - One of the more contentious issues in the Northern Rockies for the past decade has been the subject of wolves. What's not contentious is the love that people feel for dogs.
So what happens when the two mix together?
Wolves by nature are wild, not meant to be approached, let alone tamed. However with hybrids, the dogs are designed to be human-friendly. But the problem remains that distinguishing the two can be quite difficult.
"It can be a little complicated with the more wolf that you have. Some have some characteristics of wolves, some look more like dogs. We don't know necessarily what percentage that they are. It is very difficult to know for sure if you have a 20%, a 30%, a 40%," said Liz Bradley of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
Wolf-dogs are nothing new and in fact fairly common. Like most breeds there is a variety to choose from, based on what they are "mixed" with. Wolf-dogs are illegal in eight states and while it hasn't been overly prevalent in Montana, their familiarity with humans can cause problems.
"We really haven't seen too many problems here in this region with wolf dog hybrids, but certainly in other states I've heard of it being a real problem where people get these hybrids and they can't really handle them so they just go and release them in the woods thinking hey can just be free, but instead because they're tame they seek out people and they tend to cause problems," said Bradley.
In Montana the regulations are loose. Anyone that wants a wolf-dog can get one with the only requirement being that any wolf-dog that has 50% or more wolf in it is required to get a permitting tattoo on its ear or gums.
On Facebook many previous and current owners attest to having a wonderful experience with their wolf dog. Most stated how protective they were with one account even saying the canine sacrificed its life to defend the family from a badger. And while the majority recall a positive experience there are those who have been on the other side of the fence.
Most will say that caution is key when acquiring a wolf-dog. Breeders say establishing yourself as the "alpha" within the relationship is critical, and taking every safety measure should be a given
"Animals have different personalities. I'm sure some can make very good pets, but I would just caution people to really know what they're getting into before they move forward with getting an animal that's a hybrid," said Bradley.