The Bureau of Indian Affairs confirmed Tuesday that 58-year-old Duke Little Whirlwind died in Lame Deer on Sunday when a pack of dogs attacked him.
"My brother George saw him lying there, all of his clothes ripped off, naked," said Avalee Little Whirlwind, Duke's niece. "He was face down, and those dogs were still running around."
In a news release on Tuesday, the BIA confirmed the cause of death.
On Dec. 12, BIA Office of Justice Services law enforcement responded to a report of a person being attacked by dogs. When officers located the individual, there were no dogs present. The Rosebud County Sheriff/Coroner also responded. Following a preliminary autopsy, it was determined the cause of death was an attack by canines, with drugs and alcohol as contributing factors. To date, no dogs have been located or captured. The case remains open and under investigation by law enforcement.
This is not the first incident involving dogs in the town, and community members want answers about the prevalence of the problem and how people can be kept safe.
"(It happens) all the time," said longtime Lame Deer resident Tom MexicanCheyenne. "They’re reported to law enforcement, but nothing ever gets done. They say it isn’t their responsibility."
MexicanCheyenne has lived in Lame Deer for more than 40 years and says that despite a posted Northern Cheyenne tribal ordinance, law enforcement hasn’t done enough to curb the issue.
Help Every Pet in Hardin rescued eight puppies Tuesday from the Crow Reservation after their mother was hit by a car. The group is one of three animal rescues that serve animals of Big Horn County, as well as animals on reservations across Montana.
Chris Winterrowd is the director of Help Every Pet in Hardin, and said: “Most of our puppies and dogs come from the reservation."
These communities are often overrun with stray dogs, many of which can be aggressive.
“When dogs pack, they actually will fight with each other too,” Winterrowd said.
Winterrowd has seen first-hand just how big of a problem stray dogs have become, especially on reservations.
“There’s a strong need specifically because of over-population,” Winterrowd said.
Heather Gauthier, a former animal rescuer in the Billings area, has seen it too.
“They never had collars on. They were always malnourished. There would be packs of them sometimes,” Gauthier said.
Gauthier used to work with animal rescue Rez Dogs of Montana. She once saw a pack of 20 dogs on one of her visits to the Crow reservation.
“I would even leave dog food for all the dogs that I saw. It would be very sad just how many you saw,” said Gauthier.
While rescues have helped, many communities like Lame Deer are still overrun with stray animals.
Rescues often provide free vaccinations and spay and neuter clinics to try and curb the overpopulation problem, but the pandemic hasn’t helped.
“We had to cancel 2020 clinics, we had to cancel them all together and that was really tough,” Winterrowd said.
If you'd like to be a part of Help Every Pet in Hardin, visit their website at Help Every Pet of Hardin.