Dog killed by wolves in Metlakatla was defending its family, owner says

a portrait of a light brown dog on a deck
Rosco, a ridgeback-mastiff mix, died defending Brittany Hayward and her daughter at Moss Point. Rosco had three legs and was seven or eight years old. (Brittany Hayward)

Something didn’t feel right when Brittany Hayward and her teenage daughter arrived at Moss Point, near the Southeast Alaska community of Metlakatla.

“I had asked my daughter, you know, ‘Where are the birds? Why are there no birds, there’s no noise,’” Hayward said.  And, you know, she kind of joked and was like ‘The Kushtaka’s watching us’ and, and I was like, ‘No, you know, something doesn’t, something doesn’t feel right, I feel like we’re being watched.’”

Hayward had three dogs with her on the beach. That included Rosco, a ridgeback-mastiff mix; Smokey, a German shepherd-husky mix; and Cardi B, a Jack Russell mixed with husky and pitbull. 

“And our dogs were on high alert, as soon as they got down there, they kept looking and, you know, pointing and looking off to the bushes, and they were just really uneasy,” Hayward said.

Hayward said she couldn’t see much of anything from where she stood. She was behind mounds of sand and rock that form on the beach at low tide. Smokey was watching over them, standing on one of the mounds. She remembered telling her daughter she felt like a sitting duck. 

When Hayward turned around, she saw Smokey chasing after a wolf. 

“I start screaming, just screaming, for my dog to come back and in a matter of minutes, it felt like minutes, that this wolf was luring him, and they were chasing each other,” she said. “He was chasing the wolf away.”

Hayward said she scooped up Cardi B. She kept screaming and standing her ground, just as state wildlife officials advise.

“I can’t see where these other wolves are,” she said. “We’re behind the wolves.”

But her screams didn’t faze the wolf. Instead, she recalled the animal simply cocked its head and stepped toward her. 

That’s when Smokey and Rosco broke loose.

“Smokey and Rosco took off after the wolf and Rosco got a hold of the wolf,” Hayward said. “And they tumbled into the rocks. And when they started fighting, two more came out of the woods and started attacking him and another one came from the point.”

Hayward said Smokey came back, and she managed to get him leashed. She told her daughter to take him and run to the car. Hayward had hoped that the car’s horn might scare the pack away. 

“And she was like, ‘I can’t leave you,’” Hayward said. “And I just had to scream at her, ‘Run!” 

Rosco. (Brittany Hayward)

But Rosco kept fighting. With Cardi B still in her arms, Hayward said, she was still screaming as she watched Rosco tumble with the wolves. He pinned one down in the rocks.

That’s when Hayward took off. She drove her car down to the beach, honking, both trying to scare the pack and call for help.

But she said the wolves didn’t seem to care. She got out of the car to go get help, but something had already changed on the beach. 

“It went completely silent,” Hayward said. “I couldn’t hear them.”

Hayward’s husband, police officers and other Metlakatla residents tried to look for Rosco. But the wolves kept guarding the beach, howling late into the night. 

Searchers combed the area until about 1 a.m. the following morning. A Fish and Wildlife officer found Rosco’s remains and brought him home.

Hayward said he fought hard defending his family. She said that Rosco died of a puncture wound to his stomach. 

This wasn’t Hayward’s first encounter with wolves — Smokey chased some away during a recent family camping trip. And Hayward thinks something needs to be done.

“I think that they need to be thinned out, I think that the fact that they were not scared of me is pretty dangerous,” she said.

Officials in Metlakatla issued a notice to residents on Monday warning them that wolves had been spotted in the Moss Point and Point Davison areas. Hayward said it’s important to stay vigilant when out and about.

“I think that people just need to, to trust your instinct,” Hayward said. “And don’t talk yourself out of that feeling. If you feel like you, you’re being watched. This is still Alaska, and you probably are being stalked. Absolutely.”

Hayward said beach-goers should also carry bear spray or some other kind of weapon — just in case.

Speaking to KRBD on Monday, Metlakatla’s mayor said he couldn’t recall a similar incident happening in recent years. 

Fish and Game says wolves are known to be aggressive to dogs, both with or without the owner’s presence. But according to the department, attacks on children and dogs, or approaching homes, is somewhat unusual.

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