‘Programmed to eat’: Northern pike mauls husky at North Pole gravel pit

A green-tinted photo of a fish
A northern pike. (Creative commons photo by Bas Kers)

A North Pole woman is keeping her dogs away from a neighborhood gravel pit after a northern pike attacked and injured one of them last month.

Longtime North Pole resident Shannon Dhondt said it was a warm September day when she stopped to let her two dogs cool off at the neighborhood gravel pit. 

“This is over off of Copper Street, off Dennis Road in North Pole,” she said. “Been our popular little spot for years, but not anymore.”

Dhondt said her chihuahua Mulan luckily wanted nothing to do with the water, but her husky-greyhound mix Murphy went down to the edge.  

“And out of nowhere, bam, here’s this big old huge fish, which, I didn’t know what it was,” she said. “Three feet, hanging off his muzzle, you know, and he starts shaking his head and this thing is holding on.”

Dhondt said Murphy pushed the toothy fish off with a paw, but then the pike bit Murphy’s leg. 

“It was on his paw long enough to get some really good teeth in there,” she said.

A husky curled up on a bedspread that is covered with giant bloodstains
Shannon Dhondt’s dog Murphy recovering at home after being attacked by a Northern Pike at a North Pole area gravel pit. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Dhondt)

The fish flopped back into the water after Murphy finally got free. Dhondt said when she got him home, he proceeded to bleed heavily.

Dhondt has photos of her home that look like something from a slasher movie. She said Murphy wouldn’t let her help. The wounds were numerous but shallow, and Murphy licked them until the bleeding stopped.

He’s fully recovered from the attack, and Dhondt said she’s since spent some time researching northern pike.   

“Looked at them online, and number one, they’re gnarly. And number two, they get huge,” she said.

State fisheries biologist Klaus Wuttig said he’s never heard of pike biting a dog, but he’s not necessarily surprised.

“Pike are pretty prehistoric fish, you know — they don’t really have brains. They’re programmed to eat, right?” he said. “Pike are pretty renowned for hitting baby ducks, voles on the surface, and so the dog snout — could that activate a pike to strike? Surely.”

Wuttig said he’s been bitten by pike a few times, and it’s important to pry their jaws open rather than try to pull away. The fish have hundreds of tiny teeth that can result in a lot of cuts.

Dhondt has a video that a friend shot of a pike — possibly the same one that bit her dog Murphy — going after a beaver in the gravel pit. She said nobody has been able to catch the fish.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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