How Weiner Dogs Saved Haida Gwaii

Fifteen years ago, dachshunds and biologists teamed up to save Haida Gwaii from invasive species. This is what happens when wiener dogs attack.

Liberal hunting quotas and targeted culls are common ecosystem restoration tools. In British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii, after the Sitka Blacktail deer was introduced, another tool was needed to curb its population explosion, so biologists briefly enlisted an unlikely helper in its war: the dachshund. In typical late-1990s fashion, the diminutive wiener dog was briefly touted as an unlikely hero in the restoration of the “Galapagos of the North.”

This photo by Reijo Orava shows off his vicious hunters.

Biologists have been wrestling with the ravages of introduced invasive species in Haida Gwaii for years. Raccoons and rats have decimated ground-nesting sea-bird colonies, beavers have dammed up rainforest rivers, and deer have literally eaten everything within reach, including the next generations of the culturally critical western Red Cedar. Even tiny, rugged Reef Island, six kilometres offshore and two kilometres square, has been colonized by swimming deer.

Wiener dogs were originally bred to flush out burrowing animals, such as badgers. Because their low frames allow easy passage through thick rainforest undergrowth, dachshunds helped herd the deer to waiting guns. On Reef Island, with initial help from the dogs, hunters bagged over 70 deer in three years.

Finnish biologist and hunter Reijo Orava and his two dachshunds were recruited for the Haida Gwaii project; however, their long-term involvement was thwarted by the wild Pacific coast, which pinned the team down on Reef for over a week in gale-force winds and cold rains, limiting the dog’s ability to hunt. Consequently, after just one hunt, authorities proclaimed the dachshunds results did not justify the costs, and their contract was not renewed. Dachshund involvement may have been short-lived, but the legend of the heroic wieners of Haida Gwaii lives on.

Author / Contributor

Dave Quinn

Born in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Dave is a wildlife biologist, educator, wilderness guide, writer and photographer whose work is driven by his passion for wilderness and wild spaces. His work with endangered mountain caribou and badgers, threatened fisher and grizzly, as well as lynx and other species has helped shape his understanding of the Kootenay backcountry and its wildlife, and help ...

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