Just after 7 p.m., Paul Moore parked his truck off Observation Road in Duluth and headed into the woods with his chocolate Lab, Rad Venom. He was training Rad to hunt for discarded deer antlers, usually allowing him to trot 10 yards or so ahead.
But that night, Rad was greeted by two wolves barreling straight toward him. Moore watched, stunned, as one of the wolves launched and wrapped its jaws around Rad's haunch.
Rad is 3 years old and weighs about 70 pounds. The wolves were each bigger – about the size of a “large German shepherd,” according to Moore. He knew the odds were not good.
He told the Duluth News Tribune that his dog was “screaming” in pain and fear as the other wolf braced itself to attack. Until you’re in that situation, you never quite know how you’re going to react. Moore’s reaction was to take the axe he uses as a walking stick and rush into the fray.
He “swung so hard” at the nearest wolf that the axe head missed it entirely. But he ended up whapping it with the handle and shaking off its grip on Rad. The other wolf was still chewing at Rad's hindquarters, so Moore took another swing… only to have the axe fly out of his hand.
In a last-ditch effort to save his dog, Moore laid on top of Rad like a human shield and kicked at the wolf’s snout.
“I know no one in their right mind would do such a thing,” he told the Tribune. But he was “running on adrenaline.” The kicking worked. The wolf let go, and the pair loped about 30 yards away, where they watched Moore tend to Rad's injuries.
Venom was bleeding from five puncture wounds. Moore used his shirt as a makeshift bandage to slow the blood loss. The dog managed to get up and walk. With some veterinary attention, Rad pulled through and has started to recover.
Wolves happen to be a divisive subject at the moment. They’re currently protected under the federal Endangered Species Act – illegal to kill except to save the life of a human. Had Moore killed one of the wolves attacking his dog, it would have been against the law. The Trump administration has expressed interest in taking away the wolf’s federal protections, which would allow states to hunt and kill them again. (Minnesota did as recently as 2014.)
Minnesota legislators had their own battle over the wolf during the last session. Opinions on killing wolves, like almost all other political debates, fall mostly on party lines. The Democratic House passed a ban on hunting and killing wolves by a one-vote margin, but not before opponents gave “lengthy” speeches on the dangers wolves pose to pets.
“They lick up Fluffy in a hurry,” Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) said. “The question is, in your idolizing the wolf, are you going to pursue it so far that you run over fluffy?”
Governor Tim Walz expressed interest in signing the ban… had it ever reached his desk. But the Republican Senate never voted on it. In a compromise between chambers, the issue was dropped.
Moore says he has “nothing against wolves.” But he wants other dog owners to be careful. There’s “more out there to be concerned about than ticks and Lyme disease.”