WOLF ATTACKS

WOLF ATTACKS ON HUMANS

The ferocious reputation of the wolf is unjustified. Up until a few years ago no one had ever documented a fatal attack by a non-rabid wolf in North America. Biologists say wolves "are very afraid of people" and humans have even taken pups from a den while the parents whined instead of attacked. In the past quarter-century, dogs have killed more than 300 people in North America, while wolves have killed one or two.

Despite their reputation in folklore, wolves rarely attack people in North America or Europe. But they do run down the odd agricultural worker in Asia, where wolves and people come into contact more often. [Source: Peter Marren, December 9, 2011, review of “The Book of Deadly Animals” by Gordon Grice]

Over the centuries, wolves have killed hundreds of humans, most notably in France during the mid-1800s and over the last 30 years in India. Between 1764 and 1767, there were well documented reports from the Gévaudan region of southern France of wolves attacking more than a hundred people, killing many and eating parts of them. The killing ended when two large non-rabid wolves were killed. These reports are considered unique.

There have been reports of scary encounters in recent years. A mother who lives in wolf country told Smithsonian, "A wolf [came] eight feet from my bedroom window. My dog was out there going crazy and so I hollered at it and I heard this growl and there he was. My three-year-old plays in the yard—what's to keep a wolf from coming after him? You think I'm not scared?" A Norwegian woman living in area where wolves had been seen told the Los Angeles Times, "People are afraid to walk in the woods. I no longer go out by myself to walk in the woods, I no longer go out by myself to pick berries."

According to Western Wildlife Outreach: “Evidence from a few recent cases of humans being bitten during wild wolf encounters indicates these animals may have been fed by people, thereby losing their natural fear of humans and associating humans with food. In other cases, people may have been injured while trying to break up a fight between their dog and a wolf. In North America, where there are about 60,000 wolves, there has been only two fatalities apparently caused by wolves. It is believed that these fatalities were the result of habituated or sick wolves. Injuries from wolves have also been extremely rare in North America. By comparison, domestic dogs in the United States are responsible for 4.7 million bites, resulting in 500,000-800,000 hospital visits and 15-20 fatalities per year.[Source: Western Wildlife Outreach westernwildlife.org ***]

“About half of the human fatalities from wolf attacks worldwide since about 1950 have involved wolves infected with rabies. Wolves are not major carriers of rabies, but contract it from contact with other wildlife harboring the disease. The severity of sporadic attacks by rabid wolves in Europe and Asia in past centuries likely contributed to a perception brought to North America by European settlers that all wolves were violently dangerous animals. However, in the United States and Canada, interactions involving rabid wolves and humans have rarely occurred due to the low overall incidence of rabies on the continent.” ***

Reports of Wolf Attack on Humans

In February 2005, the PakTribune.com website reported that bitter weather in the high Afghan mountains drove wolves into populated areas. The official Bakhter News Agency reported that four villagers were killed and eaten by wolves, and a further 22 were bitten. [Source: Animal Attack Files, February 19, 2005]

In July 2006, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported: “A Salem Township woman has been mauled to death by wolf-dog hybrids she kept as pets. "Everybody told her this would happen, but she just wouldn't listen," said a local Humane Society officer familiar with the case. "She was a very likable person, but she was just delusional about their danger, and totally misguided." [Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 18, 2006]

In July 2006, the Fairbanks News-Miner reported: “A wolf has attacked and bitten a young woman who was walking near a campground on the Dalton Highway, near the Arctic Circle. The woman escaped by hiding in an outhouse, and the wolf was not captured. Wildlife experts say the attack is quite rare, but not without precedent. [Source: Fairbanks News-Miner, July 12, 2006]

Wolf Attack Fatality in Saskatchewan?

Scott Sandsberry wrote in the Yakima Herald-Republic, “Points North Landing is a remote outpost in northern Saskatchewan. It has a mining camp, a fishing lodge, a gravel airstrip, a freight-forwarding station where you can rent a trailer-type room -- provided you don't mind sharing the bathroom -- and not much else. Most who stop there are en route to someplace else. For Kenton Carnegie, it was the end of the road. [Source: Scott Sandsberry, Yakima Herald-Republic, January 18, 2007]

“In November 2005, Carnegie was a 22-year-old, third-year geological engineering student who, as part of his university's co-op program, was working with a survey company at Points North Landing. He went for a walk and never came back. His body was found two hours later, mutilated by wild animals. The bite marks and the numerous tracks surrounding Carnegie's body led investigators to conclude he had been killed by wolves that, for months, had been scavenging at the mining camp's garbage dump. If indeed wolves killed him, Carnegie is believed to be the first person killed by healthy wolves in the wild in North America.

“There have been plenty of non-fatal attacks over the years, most of them in Alaska and Canada, home to more than 60,000 wolves. Many of them have been harrowing; most of them involved children. Until the attack at Points North Landing, though, none had been deadly. Nor has it surprised the experts who saw something like this as only a matter of time.

The wolves believed to have killed Carnegie had reportedly become increasingly brazen around the humans around the mining camp. And having access to a ready supply of food in the camp's dump simply made the wolves gave them no reason to leave. The incident at Points North Landing "was the classic thing, (that) you could turn wolves into large dogs by feeding them," says Ed Bangs, national wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "And that's what happened in this situation. It was wolves habituated to the local dump. "In terms of human safety, it didn't change anything. That didn't tell us anything we didn't already know."

Bangs' reference to large dogs may seem incongruous, but isn't. While wolf attacks have been increasing -- something McNay predicted would happen in his 2002 review of 80 wolf-human encounters in Alaska and Canada -- their threat to humans is still microscopic in comparison to that posed domestic dogs.

Wolf Pack Kills Jogger in Alaska

In March 2010, a pack of wolves mauled a teacher to death while she was out jogging near Anchorage, Alaska. Jacqui Goddard wrote in The Telegraph, “The partially-eaten body of Candice Berner, 32, was found after search teams on snowmobiles followed a trail of blood through woodland at Chignik Lake, where she had been running alone on a remote road. The chilling attack — the first fatal wolf encounter on record in the state — has left locals in the tiny village of Chignik in fear of their own lives, forcing parents to escort their children to school and leading others to mount armed patrols in an attempt to prevent further tragedy. Villagers have reported fresh wolf-tracks in the snow close to their community, adding to safety concerns. [Source: Jacqui Goddard, The Telegraph, March 13, 2010 ||||]

“The state's Department of Fish and Game and state troopers now plan to launch an aerial hunt for the wolves using a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft."We'll stay as long as we can to make sure the public feels as safe as we can make them feel living in Alaska," said Colonel Audie Holloway of the Alaska State Troopers. Between 7,700 and 11,200 wolves live wild in Alaska and while encounters with humans are generally non-confrontational, several villagers at Chignik Lake had reported "threatening encounters" with them in recent days. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, which has authority over the nearby Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge, has approved a special ten-day permit allowing state-approved hunters to cross the refuge's boundaries to hunt down the wolves - which is usually banned. ||||

“Ms Berner's father, Bob Berner, told the Anchorage Daily News that his daughter - who at 4ft 11ins was "small but mighty" - was listening to her iPod while taking a late afternoon run and was unlikely to have noticed that she was being stalked. "She was probably not aware of them until they actually lunged at her or attacked her," he said. "She did the best she could, but they figured there were two of them for sure, maybe three ... She put up a struggle. It was not an immediate thing," he added. ||||

“A post-mortem examination concluded that the cause of death was "multiple injuries due to animal mauling." "They were just doing what wolves do. Their nature happened to kill my daughter but I don't have any anger towards wolves," said Mr Berner. State troopers who investigated the scene found pawprints around Ms Berner's body, which had been torn and partially eaten, and bloody drag marks in the snow. They found that she was probably chased down and attacked for around 150 feet before she went down. "She was bleeding as she was being moved, being dragged, and there was damage to the throat," said Cpl Holloway. "The medical examiner concluded that she wasn't killed by any other method and that the damage to the throat was severe. There were animal bite marks on the throat. Wolves, just like big cats, usually attack the wind pipe area and try to control the victim that way." ||||

“The death of Ms Berner has led to new debate by Alaskans about their state's predator control programme, which some say is not protecting citizens enough. Locals in Pilot Point, another community on the Alaska Peninsula, say that wolves have often come into their community and dragged away pet dogs. But others are against introducing tougher controls that would allow members of the public to shoot and kill wolves at their own discretion. "To me, it's a pretty bogus issue although I know it strikes at the heart strings of a lot of people who want to be macho and go out there and kill animals," said John Toppenberg, director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, told the KTVA television channel. Shooting at wolves will make them more desperate, he predicted. "They become far more likely to go into towns, to frequent trails, to become problem wolves," he said.” ||||

Wolf Attacks in Armenia

In January 2007, ArmeniaNow reported: “A wild grey wolf attacked and injured Artur Sargsyan in the face outside his home in the village of Brnakot. The 30-year-old man was bitten as he went out to investigage his dog’s anxious barking on January 9th. After wounding Artur, the wolf attacked 55-year-old Armida Grigoryan, another resident of the village, and her son, who had responded to his mother’s screams. The wolf went on to savage two young men in the street, causing bodily injuries. [Source: Marianna Grigoryan and Sara Khojoyan, ArmeniaNow, January 17, 2007 *=*]

“Brnakot is a village in Syunik province located some 220 kilometers south of Yerevan; the villagers say they can’t recall a previous case of a wolf attacking people. “I am 50 years old but I can’t remember an incident like that. Wolves have attacked cattle, but never people,” Atom Arakelyan, the head of the Brnakot administration, told Armenianow. “We have never seen a beast like this one. Wolves are cautious, they rarely approach people or houses. He is either very wild or very hungry.” After attacking the villagers in Brnakot, the wolf moved on to other nearby settlements. Official records show that two people were injured in Uyts village in Syunik and taken to the military hospital in nearby Aghitu village at midnight the same day. *=*

“Police set up a hunting party comprising residents of Uyts and Brnakot to track down and kill the wolf. But by then, the wild animal had reached the town of Sisian and attacked Mher Poghosyan, aged 24, after entering a house. Poghosyan’s father managed to kill the beast with several blows to the head with the butt of his rifle. Mher Poghosyan received injuries to his hands and face from the wolf and joined its other victims at Aghitu military hospital. *=*

“No cases of wolf attacks have been registered in the republic for the last three or four years,” says Nikolai Grigoryan, advisor of the Armenian Rescue Service director. “We are still uncertain about what caused this particular incident.” The service said that two of the seven injured people were allowed home after medical treatment. The other five have been transported to Sisian central hospital and are now under the supervision of doctors. All of the victims of the wolf have been vaccinated against rabies. *=*

Wolf Attacks in Asia

T. R. Mader, Research Director of the Abundant Wildlife Society of North America, wrote: “ Biologists tell us that the wolves of Asia and North America are one and the same species. Wolf attacks are common in many parts of Asia. The government of India reported more than 100 deaths attributable to wolves in one year during the eighties. (Associated Press, 1985) This author recalls a news report in 1990 in which Iran reported deaths from attacks by wolves. [Source: T. R. Mader, Research Director, Abundant Wildlife Society of North America, an independent research organization]

Rashid Jamsheed, a U.S. trained biologist, was the game director for Iran. He wrote a book entitled "Big Game Animals of Iran (Persia)." In it he made several references to wolf attacks on humans. Jamsheed says that for a millennia people have reported wolves attacking and killing humans. In winter, when starving wolves grow bold, they have been known to enter towns and kill people in daylight on the streets. Apparently, in Iran, there are many cases of wolves running off with small children. There is also a story of a mounted and armed policeman (gendarme) being followed by 3 wolves. In time he had to get off his horse to attend to nature’s call, leaving his rifle in the scabbard. A later reconstruction at the scene of the gnawed bones and wolf tracks indicated that the horse had bolted and left the man defenseless, whereupon he was killed and eaten.

A Russian Linguist, Will Graves, provided our organization with reports of wolves killing Russian people in many areas of that country. Reports indicate some of the wolves were diseased while others appeared healthy. Reports have also come from rural China. The official Zinhua News Agency reported that a peasant woman, Wu Jing, snatched her two daughters from the jaws of a wolf and wrestled with the animal until rescuers arrived. Wu slashed at the wolf with a sickle and it dropped one daughter, but grabbed her sister. It was then Wu wrestled with the animal until herdsmen came and drove the beast away. This incident occurred near Shenyang City, about 380 miles northeast of Beijing. (Chronicle Features, 1992)

The question arises: "Why so many attacks in Asia and so few in North America?" Two factors must be considered: 1) The Philosophy of Conservation - Our forefathers always believed that they had the right and obligation to protect their livelihoods. Considerable distance was necessary between man and wolf for the wolf to survive. 2) Firearms - Inexpensive, efficient weapons gave man the upper hand in the protection of his livelihood and for the taking of wolves. Milton P. Skinner in his book, “The Yellowstone Nature Book” (published 1924) wrote, "Most of the stories we hear of the ferocity of these animals... come from Europe. There, they are dangerous because they do not fear man, since they are seldom hunted except by the lords of the manor. In America, the wolves are the same kind, but they have found to their bitter cost that practically every man and boy carries a rifle..." Skinner was correct. The areas of Asia where wolf attacks occur on humans are the same areas where the people have no firearms or other effective means of predator control.

Wolf Attacks in India

According to Associated Press the government of India reported more than 100 deaths attributable to wolves in one year during the 1980s. In 1878, British officials in Uttar Pradesh recorded 624 human killings by wolves. The British offered a 5-rupee bounty for each wolf killed. This led to the slaying of nearly 2,600 wolves, and brought an end to the wolf killings in nine months.

In the 1990s, there was a wave of attacks in Uttar Pradesh in northern India. John F. Burns wrote in the New York Times, “It has been more than a century since India faced the threat of man-eating wolves on anything like the scale now terrorizing this region of Uttar Pradesh state. Since the first killing five months ago, 33 children have been carried off and killed by wolves, according to police figures; 20 others have been seriously mauled along this stretch of the Ganges River basin, 350 miles from New Delhi. A hunt by thousands of villagers and police officers has killed only 10 wolves so far. [Source: John F. Burns, New York Times, September 1, 1996 <<<]

“With new attacks each week, hysteria is sweeping the area of the killings, a terrain of lush fields interlaced with rivers and ravines that reaches about 60 miles north to south and about 40 miles across. More than nine million people live in the region in some of the harshest poverty found anywhere in India. Ram Lakhan Singh, an animal conservationist, “met with other officials at Manjanpur, another village hit by a wolf killing, and pored over hand-drawn maps. Tracing his finger over dotted lines connecting red triangles, denoting wolf killings, and blue circles, denoting maulings by the wolves, Mr. Singh showed why he believed that a single wolf pack was responsible for the attacks. <<<

''There has never been more than one attack on a single day, and the same village has never been attacked twice,'' he said. ''This cannot be coincidence.'' Mr. Singh said studies in India, some going back a century and more, showed that wolves could cover 40 to 50 miles in a day. ''So we seem to be dealing here with a single pack,'' he said.

“From villagers' accounts, most attacks have occurred between midnight and 4 A.M. Because of the stifling heat and cramped village homes, many women sleep outside on latticed cots called charpoys, infants beside them, making inviting targets for the wolves. In other cases, marks on dirt floors have shown how wolves have crept through doorways and carried off their prey.” <<<

Wolf Kills Four-Year-Old in India

Reporting from Banbirpur, India, John F. Burns wrote in the New York Times, “When the man-eating wolf came to this tranquil village toward dusk on an evening in mid-August, it was every child's worst nightmare come true. The wolf pounced while Urmila Devi and three of her eight children were in a grassy clearing at the edge of the village, using the open ground for a toilet. The animal, about 100 pounds of coiled sinew and muscle, seized the smallest child, a 4-year-old boy named Anand Kumar, and carried him by the neck into the luxuriant stands of corn and elephant grass that stretch to a nearby riverbank. [Source: John F. Burns, New York Times, September 1, 1996 <<<]

“When a police search party found the boy three days later, half a mile away, all that remained was his head. From the claw and tooth marks, pathologists confirmed he had been killed by a wolf -- probably one of a pack that conservationists believe has been roaming this area, driven to killing small children by hunger or by something else that has upset the natural instinct of wolves to avoid humans, like thrill-seeking villagers stealing cubs from a lair. <<<

''It came across the grass on all four paws, like this,'' said Sita Devi, 10, the sister of the boy killed by a wolf in Banbirpur on Aug. 16, as she moved forward in a crouch from a cluster of villagers gathered by a well. She told her story with tears in her eyes, to anxious murmurs from the crowd. ''As it grabbed Anand, it rose onto two legs until it was tall as a man,'' she said. ''Then it threw him over its shoulder. It was wearing a black coat, and a helmet and goggles.'' The girl's grandfather Ram Lakhan Panday, who drove a truck in Calcutta for 50 years before retiring to his native village, said: ''As long as officials pressure us to say it was a wolf, we'll say it was a wolf. But we have seen this thing with our own eyes. It is not a wolf; it is a human being.'' <<<

Wolf Attack Hysteria in India

John F. Burns wrote in the New York Times, “A frenzy of rumors has put the blame for the killings not on wolves but on werewolves, the half-man, half-wolf creatures that have stalked their way through folklore for about as long as human societies have existed. Other rumors have put the blame for the killings on infiltrators from Pakistan, who are said to have dressed up as wolves. Pakistan is India's traditional enemy. [Source: John F. Burns, New York Times, September 1, 1996 <<<]

“Villagers have turned against strangers, and sometimes against one another, in lynchings that have killed at least 20 people and prompted the authorities to arrest 150 people. ''It's the worst wolf menace anywhere in the world in at least 100 years,'' said Ram Lakhan Singh, the animal conservationist chosen to lead an effort to kill wolves suspected of attacking humans. The hunt involves thousands of villagers and police officers armed with bamboo staves and 12-gauge shotguns. But nobody can be sure that any of the wolves shot so far were part of the pack that Mr. Singh and other experts believe is responsible for the deaths. <<<

“Fear is pervasive. Men stay awake all night, keeping vigil with antique rifles and staves. Mothers keep children from the fields, and infants are kept inside all day. In the dark interiors of stark brick homes made clammy by the monsoons, fantastical stories are told, sweeping aside all attempts by officials to convince villagers that the killers have been wolves. <<<

“Nearly half of India's 930 million people are illiterate, and the ratio is higher in villages like Banbirpur. Many men head off to Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta in search of menial jobs, but living in slums among others much like themselves, they learn little to allay the superstitions of village life. In the case of wolves, these are compounded by fairy tales told to children -- Indian versions of ''Little Red Riding Hood'' -- in which wolves, and werewolves, are represented as among the most cunning and dangerous of all creatures.” <<<

Reasons for the Wolf Attack in India

John F. Burns wrote in the New York Times, “Mr. Singh is convinced that the most likely cause for the attacks is hunger. For five years in the 1980's, Mr. Singh was director of India's troubled effort to save its diminishing stock of tigers, and that experience showed him how India's fast-growing population, competing with wild animals for land and resources, had driven some species, including tigers, to desperation in the struggle to survive. [Source: John F. Burns, New York Times, September 1, 1996 <<<]

“In the early 1970's, India expanded its animal sanctuaries to a total of more than 60,000 square miles, about 5 percent of the country's area, and adopted a far-reaching wildlife protection statute. Tigers were on the list, as were wolves. But while the number of tigers continued to plunge, with many poached to feed the market for tiger parts elsewhere in Asia, wolf populations soared. Mr. Singh, directing the effort here to hunt the wolves, believes the growing numbers have now outstripped the habitat available to support the wolves, at least in eastern Uttar Pradesh, causing some of the hungrier animals to become man-eaters.” <<<

Response to the Wolf Attack in India

John F. Burns wrote in the New York Times, “At the meeting in Manjanpur, Mr. Singh drafted plans to have hunters patrol hundreds of square miles along riverbanks in the area known to be the favored spot for wolves' lairs. In addition, a bounty of 10,000 rupees (about $285), more than many families earn in a year, will be offered for every dead wolf brought in by villagers. [Source: John F. Burns, New York Times, September 1, 1996 <<<]

“Some Indian conservationists worry that a similar campaign this time -- especially if it is repeated elsewhere across India, where isolated incidents of wolves killing children have occurred -- could lead to wolves becoming extinct. But Mr. Singh has no patience for this view. ''Crime and punishment applies to every living thing, humans and animals,'' he said. ''The wolves have to learn that they cannot live next to human beings and misbehave. If they do, they must be killed.'' Then he pronounced what sounded like a death sentence for the wolf in the wild.''Enough care has been taken for these animals,'' he said. ''We simply cannot have carnivores roaming around densely populated areas anymore. If India is going to save the wolf, it is going to have to be in sanctuaries.'' <<<

Wolf Attack in Central Asia

In the winter of 2005, extreme cold in Central Asia forced wolves to in close contact with residents of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, resulting in several attacks. Antoine Blua of Radio Free Europe wrote: “On the arid steppes of western Uzbekistan, some 20 villagers have been reported injured by wolves in five months. Two of them -- in the Muinak district -- died in early February as a result of their wounds. [Source: Antoine Blua, Radio Free Europe (RFE), March 15, 2005 ^^^]

“In a remote eastern Badakhshan Province of Tajikistan where livestock are essential for survival, no one has died from a wolf attack. But Roshtqala District resident Jonibek Qozibekov told RFE that villagers live in terror, with roaming wolves preying on farm animals."At night, the wolves own the village. First, they ate all the dogs. Now they have begun to eat sheep, cows [and other animals]. In the past two months, they have eaten 150 of them. Wolves dig through mud walls, break into sheds, and attack [animals]," Qozibekov said. "At night, the wolves own the village. First, they ate all the dogs. Now they have begun to eat sheep, cows [and other animals]." ^^^

“Residents from both regions have appealed to their central governments for help.” One option is a mass hunting campaigns similar to the one that authorities launched in southern Russia earlier in 2005. But Temur Idrisov, program director of the Tajik environmental group For the Earth, says he promotes a system of indemnities for the damage caused by wolves. "Communities and wildlife can live together in harmony. The main issue here is [to draw] the attention of the government to this [problem]. If some community loses cows or sheep, there can be a system to covers this damage. But of course it should be partly subsidized by the government and by international organizations or environmental NGOs," Idrisov said.

Wolf Attacks in Siberia

In 2013, the governor of Sakha Republic, Russia's largest region declared a state of emergency after a surge of wolf attacks. Roland Oliphant wrote in The Telegraph: “Yegor Borisov, head of the Sakha Republic, a vast and sparsely populated region of eastern Siberia, has called for an urgent cull of wolves after the predators swamped populated areas in a search for food. The local government has announced a three month "battle against wolves". Special task forces will be put together and the hunting season extended all year round in a bid to tackle what the local authorities have described as a "mass migration" of the creatures. The governor has even promised a six-figure cash prize for the hunters who bring back the most skins. [Source: Roland Oliphant, The Telegraph, January 6, 2013]

The sparsely populated Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, has seen several dramatic confrontations between humans and the animals in recent years. Last January a "super pack" of 400 wolves laid siege to the remote town of Verkhoyansk, forcing locals to mount patrols on snow mobiles until the government could send in extra help. Wolves usually hunt in small groups of just six or seven, and naturalists believe only a serious failure of the usual food supply could have brought such a large pack together to tackle larger prey. This year naturalists say a shortage of the wolves' traditional pretty – especially blue hares – has seen vast numbers of the hungry animals migrating from their mountainous hunting grounds to central parts of the republic.

While scientists agree a food shortage is at the root of the problem, it is not clear what has impacted the small mammal population. Some naturalists have pointed to cyclical fluctuations in the population of small mammals, but others have suggested unusually harsh winters could have played a role.

There are thought to be about 3,500 wolves in the Sakha Republic, which covers an area larger than Argentina. The local government says the territory can realistically support no more than 500. While no attacks on humans have been reported recently, the influx of predators into more populated regions has had a big impact on agriculture – especially the region's traditional reindeer herders. Wolves killed 313 horses and over 16,000 reindeer in 2012, according to the agriculture ministry.

Wolf Attack Near China-Mongolia Border

In August 2014, an attack in the dead of night by a pack of hungry wolves on a village in far west China left six villagers injured. Malcolm Moore wrote in The Telegraph, “Four or five wolves crept into Kalazhuole village in Altay, which lies at the foot of mountains that separate China from Mongolia, looking for sheep. They made enough noise to wake up several families in the village, who tried to chase them away. In the subsequent fighting, six villagers were bitten or clawed. [Source: Malcolm Moore, The Telegraph, August 13, 2014 ==]

"I was asleep in a water pump room," said one villager named Zhao Duobai. "At around 1am, I heard a scratching at the door. When I went outside, I saw the wolves pacing around. I took a small bucket and smashed one of their heads, but it rushed at me and attacked. I grabbed a wooden plate and hit it very hard around the head and it ran away. Later, I realised I was covered in blood." ==

“By the time a team of 30 hunters arrived at the scene to kill the wolves, the pack had vanished. The village lies near grasslands which are home to wolves, but it is rare to see an attack in the summer, when food is more plentiful. However, another nearby village was attacked in April. Yang Weikang, a biologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences told the People's Daily website that the wolves have had their food supply and habitat threatened by increasing human encroachment, including intensive farming, road building and mining projects.” ==

“China used to have one of the world's largest wolf populations, spread across grasslands in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. But a campaign in the 1970s to conquer the grasslands saw wolves hunted to near extinction. That only led to an explosion in the numbers of rabbits, marmots and other pests.So since the 1990s, the Communist party has changed tack and tried to revive wolf packs, while also arming villagers with guns to protect themselves.The Chinese, or Eurasian, wolf – Canis Lupus Lupus – is thinner than its American cousin, with longer ears and a narrower head.” ==

Wolves Kill Pet Dogs in Alaska

In 2007, a number of attacks by wolves on dogs took place near Chugach State Park near Anchorage. Darrell L. Breese wrote in the Alaska Star, A “pack of six wolves, commonly known as the Elmendorf pack, is being blamed for the recent attacks, which included a pair of dog deaths. While the death of a family pet is tragic, state officials said following some simple guidelines could have prevented the attacks and may prevent subsequent dog deaths. [Source: Darrell L. Breese. Alaska Star, December 20, 2007 /^\]

“Alaska Department of Fish and Game area wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott said keeping dogs under control is typically all it takes to prevent attacks. “If you venture into an area where there is a known wolf pack, the least someone can do is keep dogs on a leash,” he said. “That is especially important with the recent string of attacks. Even the best-trained dogs are prone to wandering off and exploring new territory.” /^\

“While keeping dogs leashed will limit the potential encounters with wolves, Sinnott is still cautious about a pattern he has seen in the recent attacks. “Our big concern is the proximity to people that the attacks are occurring,” Sinnott said. “Wolves are typically skittish around people, so that is cause for concern. But keeping dogs close when walking trails should prevent deadly encounters.” /^\

“The wolf encounters began Nov. 28, when a couple was walking with three dogs along the Alaska Railroad tracks near Eklutna. Sinnott said the dogs chased a large black wolf, which had appeared on the trail 50 yards ahead of the couple. One of the dogs was killed, and the others returned, when called by their owners. More recently, Dec. 5, a woman was walking with her dog near Artillery Road and the Eagle River gate to Fort Richardson. The dog fell behind during the trek, and the rustling of bushes, followed by the image of a wolf crossing the path served as a sign of the dog's fate. /^\

“According to Sinnott, wolves from the same pack are also believed to have been involved in other incidents, including fighting with three dogs near Bartlett High School and stalking hikers with dogs, but not engaging them, during a Dec. 8 venture into the wilderness northeast of Anchorage. Another individual reported spotting a pair of wolves while walking along a lighted loop of the Beach Lake trail system Dec. 4 with her dog. /^\

“The best things people can do to prevent additional attacks is to simply be aware of where they are and what is around them, so they are not surprised,” Sinnott said. “This is not extraordinary behavior for wolves, typically there are several stray dogs killed by wolves each year. But a little caution can keep dogs and owners safe.” While Sinnott said the recent number of attacks on dogs seems unusual, the bigger danger is moose. “A moose, especially one with a calf, is much more of a threat than a wolf to both humans and dogs when walking on dark trails in the middle of winter,” he said. “There are typically 50 to 60 dogs trampled by moose each winter.” Sinnott said he could only recall two cases in recent years when a wolf attacked a human in Alaska. /^\

“According to Sinnott, there are approximately 30 wolves living in the Anchorage area in four or five packs. He added that only two packs regularly come into contact with people. One is the Ship Creek pack, which roams the Chugach Mountains near Hiland Road and Fort Richardson. The other is the Elmendorf pack, known as such because it frequents Elmendorf Air Force Base, though it ranges across Fort Richardson as far north as the Palmer Hay Flats and possibly beyond. “We had a similar problem with wolves from the Elmendorf pack 10 to12 years back,” Sinnott said. “We were able to relocate a couple wolves and that seemed to send the signal to the rest of the pack that being around humans was not safe and brought an end to the attacks.” /^\

“As for people taking action against a wolf on their own, Sinnott warns individuals to follow state law carefully. “You can't shoot a wolf on sight,” he said. “The law says there has to be a serious threat or an attack of the life on an individual or animal before someone can take action and shoot a wolf. The best thing to do is call the police or fish and game to deal with overly aggressive.” /^\

Increasing Number of Dangerous Wolf-Human Encounters

Scott Sandsberry wrote in the Yakima Herald-Republic, “There have been plenty of non-fatal attacks over the years, most of them in Alaska and Canada, home to more than 60,000 wolves. Many of them have been harrowing; most of them involved children. With homes and industry stretching increasingly further into what had been -- quite literally -- no man's land, and with wolf populations in the Lower 48 federally protected, wolf-human interactions have been on the rise.[Source: Scott Sandsberry, Yakima Herald-Republic, January 18, 2007]

“So, in turn, has the wolves' habituation to humans. Wolves have reportedly become increasingly brazen around the humans around the mining camp. And having access to a ready supply of food have given the wolves no reason to leave. "They learn to associate the presence of humans with food," says Mark McNay, a leading wolf authority with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Attacks in North America have been on the rise for decades. During his research, McNay found only one documented case of unprovoked wolf aggression between 1900 and 1969 -- and 18 over the next two decades, including three cases of serious injury to children between 1996 and 2000. Last September, a wolf attacked two different families at separate times at a Canadian beachside park along Lake Superior, leaving four children bloodied but alive.

Even McNay, who believes educating humans in how their own behaviors affect predatory wildlife will minimize the danger of attack, doesn't believe it's foolproof. One of the problems, he says, is that humans very rarely even know when a wolf is nearby. McNay says a wolf could be living in the woods around a house for weeks, feeding on small prey, seeing humans on a regular basis and -- not been seen in turn by the people -- never being chased off. "Over time they realize these people are not a threat, because every time there encounter the person there's not a threatening situation," he says. "Most of the time the people wouldn't even know the wolves were there. "Then one of these days there's a wolf in your yard, you see it, it sees you ... and it doesn't even run."

A story from McNay's own research, though, is just as likely an indicator that, given a choice and a steady supply of their regular diet, wolves will continue to leave mankind alone. In the early 1990s, a muskrat trapper in Manitoba came upon a spot where a wolf had killed a deer near the edge of a frozen lake. It was getting dark, but the trapper followed the tracks and drag marks into a nearby tree stand. As he entered the trees, he was stopped by a loud growl from the darkness nearby ... and wisely departed. The next day, he returned to the same spot and found what was left of the kill -- scattered hair and a piece of a jawbone -- amid the tracks of what must have been four or five wolves. The night before, he had nearly walked into the scene of a fresh kill, guarded by one wolf and probably several more. And he had simply been asked to leave.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2016

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