05/17/2017 13:31 EDT | Updated 05/20/2017 13:44 EDT

Dog cull being planned on northern reserve where woman fatally mauled

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba aboriginal leader says culls of stray dogs in remote communities are a necessary measure when people's safety is at risk.

The community of Little Grand Rapids was planning to kill numerous dogs following a pack attack on the weekend that killed Donnelly Rose Eaglestick, 24, who was mauled while she was walking in the community 300 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Several media reports said the council was considering a bounty to reward residents — $25 for every dog shot.

"To deal with the problem right now, if it's expedient and in the best interest of the children and the community members ... a cull would be an appropriate response," Derek Nepinak, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said Wednesday.

Stray dogs have long been a problem on remote reserves across the Prairies. In 2007, a five-year-old boy died after being attacked outside his home on the Cumberland House reserve in northeastern Saskatchewan.

The dogs are often either abandoned or left to roam the area for long periods. They become wild and form packs to hunt for food and to breed.

Non-profit groups offer to rescue the animals and take them south for adoption. But one group that frequently deals with Little Grand Rapids said once dogs go wild, it's hard if not impossible to redomesticate them.

"Once the dogs have hit a point where they're packing and killing, they are no longer an animal that is possible to rescue," said Rebecca Norman, a director with Manitoba Mutts.

Norman agreed a cull is necessary in the Little Grand Rapids case. But she would prefer a more-organized effort, guided by professionals, in which dogs would be corralled and shot at close range to ensure a quick kill.

Nepinak said Little Grand Rapids has the right to decide which method to use. Human life is the top priority.

"It's nice to have groups that are willing to come out and help and do things in a more humane way, but when the risk is real and it's a significant risk, then a cull has to be considered."

Like other fly-in communities, Little Grand Rapids has little in the way of regular veterinary services or spay and neuter programs to control the dog population and reduce the likelihood of canines being abandoned and going feral.

Manitoba Mutts has a mobile spay-and-neuter program, but Norman said remote communities are often reluctant to pay for the service.

"Flight costs are quite high, but I mean the airports are willing to put some money in, too, if the chief and council are," said Norman.

"Sometimes it takes something critical — a crisis — to happen for people to actually look into making change."