Pack of Stray Russian Dogs Maul Spotted Deer to Death

Rare deer in Russia's Losiny Ostrov forest preserve in Moscow—also referred to as Elk Island—have suffered a brutal fate because of a pack of stray dogs. The park's administrators confirmed to local press on Thursday that several spotted deer have been mauled to death by dogs that have been making their way into the area.

According to environmental activists, 10 spotted deer were killed by dog attacks during a recent long weekend. Just this week, three more mauled deer have reportedly been discovered.

Park officials said that the rash of deer attacks is likely related to changes in the weather, according to the Moscow Times. "The severe cold weather has caused the animals' aggressiveness to increase," officials said in a statement. "These attacks are recorded annually, especially in cold winters."

The dogs are believed to come from nearby areas of Moscow on the hunt for food.

Park rangers told the press that they have informed municipal leaders in Moscow about the surge in deer deaths, and also noted that additional security was added in areas where the spotted deer frequent. However, there is concern that budget changes made by the park's new administration, which has resulted in job cuts on the park ranger staff, have left the deer in a more vulnerable position.

According to Russia's Red Book, a state document that records animals in the country, spotted deer a rare and endangered species in Russia. The spotted deer on Elk Island were reportedly brought over back in the 1970s, from the Russian Far East. Although their population has increased over the years, there are only about 150 deer that roam the land.

Pack of Stray Russian Dogs Maul Spotted
A fawn of chital deer (Axis axis) is seen at the National Zoo of El Salvador, in San Salvador, on March 16, 2015. Marvin RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images

Environmentalists in Russia have fought long and hard to preserve land for deer, by proposing restrictions on poaching as the deer population has dramatically declined across the country over the past decade.

"Over ten years, the population [of northern deer] declined by a half. The reasons are: first of all, the poaching hunting, and secondly, shrinking habitat—cut woods, active tourism—animals get disturbed in spring," Ivan Mizin, the deputy director of the Russian Arctic National Park, said in a 2020 interview with Russian News Agency TASS.

While spotted deer on Elk Island are reportedly at risk because of stray dogs, elsewhere in Russia, musk deer populations have become victim to poachers. Back in 2019, the small deer species—native to Altai in Russia—were killed in droves for their musk, which was believed to hold antiseptic properties used in Eastern medicine practices. Poachers were killing the deer and selling its musk for an average of $200 per gram, according to the Moscow Times.