Canine, not feline: pit bulls blamed for attacks on llamas in Dawson Creek neighbourhood

Residents of Bear Mountain initially blamed cougar for attacks on llamas

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article referred to attacks on both goats and llamas in the Bear Mountain area. While officials believe dogs were responsible for the attacks on llamas, they have not commented on what animal killed the goats. The owner of the goats contacted the Mirror to say she believes cougars were responsible for those killings. We have since clarified the article.

A pair of pit bulls are now being blamed for a series of deadly attacks on livestock that were initially pinned on a family of cougars.

Sandy O'Donovan said her husband Terry witnessed two pit bulls attack and kill one llama and wound another on their Bear Mountain property June 5.

"There was one llama dead, a little one, and another one with two pit bulls on top of it," said O'Donovan, who later identified the animals as a pit bull cross. "It was a ferocious, horrible thing. My husband had never seen anything like it."

O'Donovan lost three llamas in an attack in April, which officials originally blamed on a cougar. In all, three llamas and five goats were killed in the Dawson Creek neighbourhood that month. The owners of the goats believe a cougar was responsible for that attack.

Sgt. Shawn Brinsky of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said there's now strong evidence that canines, not a felines, were responsible for the slayings of the llamas.

"We came to the conclusion that because it was a llama, a bigger animal, and looking at the injuries, that it was likely a cougar," he said. They initially ruled out heelers, collies and German shepherds as being too weak to bring down a llama.

When officers heard a pit bull had been involved in an attack, they reviewed photographs of the bite marks and injuries on the dead goats and llamas.

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A wounded llama belonging to Sandy O'Donovan. A pit bull attack damaged the animal's eyes and left a flap of skin hanging beneath its jaw. - Supplied

"Their skull and jaw formation is stronger than the typical dog," he said. "At that point we found some video online of pit bulls attacking cattle, and looked at how they were hanging on and where they were grabbing. Looking back at the injuries we documented the first go around, there's a strong likelihood the animal responsible for those other kills, if it was not a cat, was a pit bull or (a similar) breed of dog."

There's additional evidence that dogs could be responsible, he said. None of the animals had been eaten, and the attacks have been sporadic, suggesting the dogs were contained for a time.

Police attended the O'Donovan's property Sunday and identified the owner of the dogs. The incident is not under criminal investigation, though people who lost livestock could pursue a claim against the owner in civil court.

O'Donovan said the dogs fled her property when her husband retrieved his gun. In all, four out of O'Donovan's six llamas have been slain in just over a month.

She's worried about what might happen if the dogs go after a child. She had not yet been in touch with the dogs' owner as of June 8.

The remaining llamas are "distraught," she added, including the mother of one of the slain animals.   

"When they took the body away, she was totally distraught," O'Donovan said. "It was terrible."

Recent attacks make national headlines

The City of Fort St. John is currently pursuing stricter animal control laws after a pit bull mauled a man in his home Christmas Day.

Robin Elgie and his girlfriend Wendy Lee Baker were attacked by a pair of pit bulls Dec. 25, which burst into their home after killing their cat. Elgie required multiple surgeries to save his hands and arms.

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