An Oregon man’s morel hunt turned into a bloody disaster on April 9 when the Gold Hill resident was attacked by what he called “the biggest wolf [he’s] ever seen.” But DNA testing conducted on Josh Trautman’s shirt and his mushroom bucket confirmed that he was actually attacked by a male domestic dog, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports in an April 20 press release.
The Alleged Wolf Attack
Trautman was mushroom hunting with three family members on the outskirts of Gold Hill when he strayed uphill from the group. He encountered a patch of morels and started harvesting them when he looked up to see what he thought was a wolf moving slowly down the hill. It stopped about 15 feet away from Trautman, who stood frozen in place. The animal looked downhill toward Trautman’s son, nephew, and brother-in-law, then sniffed the air and turned to fix its eyes on Trautman.
He told the Capital Press the animal appeared to weigh about 200 pounds with a blend of black, brown, and tan fur and bright golden eyes. As soon as the big canine focused on Trautman, it charged and started attacking, going for Trautman’s face first before tearing into his arm.
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“I knew I had better protect my arm the best I could, so I fell over on the arm that was bleeding and got into a fetal position,” he said. “It went for my head and face. It tore into part of my jaw, close to my jugular. It started going for my head. It was trying to kill me. It never barked, never did anything a dog would do. A dog will usually give you a warning. … There was nothing until the attack. I will never forget its face.”
Eventually Trautman started hitting the animal with his mushroom bucket, which scared it off him. Trautman got to his feet and kept swinging until the animal ran off. He fumbled for his phone to call his nephew, Ryley Maley, as his arm spurted blood. Maley sprinted up the hill, tackled a delirious Trautman, and applied a tourniquet to his arm, which reportedly caused the wounds on his head to bleed worse. About an hour later, emergency responders met Trautman and his family on the road to the hospital, where they tended to his wounds. From there, he was life-flighted to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, Oregon, where he underwent a three-plus-hour surgery to repair his arm.
Investigating the Incident
On April 11, ODFW was alerted to “a Facebook post by a person who stated he was attacked by a wolf,” according to the press release. (Trautman’s public profile doesn’t currently show any posts about the attack.) ODFW officials interviewed Trautman and took his torn shirt and collected swabs from the morel bucket, which were sent to a forensics lab for DNA testing. But officials could not get permission from landowners to access the area where Trautman was attacked, ODFW communications coordinator Michelle Dennehy told the Rogue Valley Times.
“One of the key factors in helping inform what may have transpired leading up to, and during, an attack is the ability to gain timely access to the attack scene and collect critical evidence such as tracks or scat,” Dennehy said.
The results from the DNA testing showed no wolf DNA, and multiple samples showed DNA from a male domestic dog. According to another Rogue Valley Times article, Trautman is skeptical of these results.
“I felt like people can do a simple home DNA test on a dog and say, ‘What is my dog exactly?’ and they can tell you every single strain of every type of dog that’s in that one dog. So why can’t they tell me what tried to kill me?” Trautman said.
Wolf, Dog, or Both?
Wolf-dog hybrids are regulated as domestic dogs in Oregon, and all regulatory authority over domestic dogs resides with the county governments. Jackson County animal control regulations require that all wolf-dog hybrids be licensed and remain either enclosed or on a harness and leash at all times. “Hybrids and tame wolves have little fear of humans, are less predictable and manageable than dogs, and are considerably more dangerous to people,” ODFW quotes from a 2003 study on their wolf FAQ page.
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Trautman’s neighbors have reportedly installed trail cameras to try getting another glimpse of the animal that attacked him. Rumors of a pack of wild dogs have circulated, but Trautman told the Rogue Valley Times the animal he saw was nothing like those canines. Still, getting his peers on social media to believe his experience has been a struggle.
“I wasn’t trying to expose myself to being berated on social media or trying to bash anyone else. I put it out there as a warning so nobody else gets hurt,” Trautman said. “They don’t know what it is, but whatever it is it was able to do some serious damage.”