Explaining Wolf Attacks

Here is something from wolf trust about wolves and people that I found interesting especially about wolf protecting there kills.

Wolf Trust

Wolves Killing People

Explaining Wolf Attacks

We can begin to make sense of wolf attacks under three heads: rabid attacks, predatory attacks and defensive attacks.

1. Rabid Attacks

Rabid wolves have gone mad and cannot help but act the way they do. A rabid animal running amok and biting other animals is the virus’s way of finding more victims in which to replicate itself.

2. Predatory Attacks

It is more difficult to fathom the reasons behind predatory attacks; a number of different factors seem involved.

Kept Wolves & Wolf-Dog Hybrids

Rearing wolves, bears and foxes at home was a centuries old custom in parts of Europe and some wolves were cross bred with dogs to use when hunting (Rootsi 2001). The custom dates back at least to Charlemagne.

It is easy to assume that owners of kept wolves were responsible for at least some attacks on people, when their animals escaped their control, and that some attacks were by their wolf-dog hybrids. In Estonia, for example, some wolves that were hunted down and shot because there were suspected of killing people were found to be wearing collars, indicating they were errant wolves people had kept (Rootsi 2001).

Highly Modified Environment

The Linnell Report pictures a degraded environment of pre-20th century Europe which prepared the scene for predatory attacks:

# Because of unrestricted hunting, forest clearing and intensive livestock grazing there is little natural wolf prey. Wolves are therefore forced to feed on domestic animals and garbage. (This was still the situation for the few surviving wolves in Italy and Spain at least into the 1970’s.)

# There is widespread poverty and often many unsupervised small children.

# The majority of shepherds and herders are children tending their flocks all day in the fields and unattended by adults. Solitary children also wander about gathering firewood and edible plants.

# Because livestock and edible garbage are close to people, wolves associate this food with children and with people generally.

The scene is set. All that is needed now is a wolf.

# A wolf approaches a few small isolated children and learns they can be grabbed easily. Perhaps the wolf is debilitated in some way, injured by a gun or trap, setting him on this course of hunting easy animals. Or perhaps he is just inquisitive. But once attacked, humans become an alternative source of prey.

# When one wolf acquires this knowledge, if he lives in a pack, the learning might spread to other pack members.

# The number of attacks on people are spasmodic and not high because the wolves do not rely entirely on people as a food source.

Child Lifting

Child lifting in India is explained in the Linnell Report and by Jhala (2000) by the highly modified environment hypothesis, as sketched above.

Wolves in India used to live on wild prey but people have largely extirpated the prey by over hunting. Now wolves are forced to feed on livestock which brings them close to people, particularly to the many unattended small children on the loose. The regions of India were child lifting occurs today parallel Europe of past times.

Decline Of Wolf Attacks In Europe

The 20th century heralded in more frequent and accurate record keeping and easier and quicker access to records than ever before. You would therefore expect more wolf attacks, not fewer, to be recorded and traceable. So what can account for the apparent decrease in wolf attacks (rabid and predatory) in 20th century Europe?

A number of reasons are suggested by the Linnell Report which could add up to explain the decrease in wolf attacks.

# Wolves in Europe were killed off or reduced in number over large regions by about the early 20th century, so wolves are less numerous and live in fewer places.

# The really fierce wolves were more prominent so were among the first to die, leaving for the most part relatively shy wolves who kept away from people – natural selection in action.

# Rabies decreased geographically so there are fewer rabid wolves.

# The number of shepherds and child-shepherds has dwindled.

# People have migrated to the cities from the countryside, so there are not as many people around to be attacked.

# Keeping tame wolves or wolf-dog hybrids, who may have been responsible for many deaths, is less common in Europe than in former times.

# Finally, having been shot out, the wolf’s wild prey is increasing. As there are more wild prey for wolves there is less need to approach human habitation, like garbage dumps, and come into contact with people.


There is a tendency to repair degraded environments in western Europe, North America and other places, although degradation still remains a huge concern. However, even in ecologically diverse environments there is a problem, that of habituation.

Habituation is when wolves lose their fear of humans and consequently approach too close. Habituation can happen when people encourage wolves to come up to them, especially by offering them food, or when people do not scare wolves away sufficiently.

The folly of feeding wolves and allowing them to be familiar with people is born out by the Vargas Island incident, documented in the McNay Report. The island is not far from Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Vargas Island Incident: This serious incident underscores the problem of habituation. The tragedy is the more thought provoking because of the fine close up picture taken of the alleged wolves a few days before everything came to a head. The picture, in the MacNay Report, was taken by Jacqueline Windh, a wildlife photographer who had paddled by kayak across to the island.

Walking along the beach, Windh met a male and a female wolf. Crouching to take a photo, she held out a hand to them and the female approached her. The wolf sniffed her hand and bit it cautiously, perhaps to find out if she was holding food, which she was not. Later on, the male wolf also approached her and less carefully gnawed at a rip in her clothing and nibbled her toes exposed through her sandals (so much for wild ferocious wolves!).

The pair of wolves hung about for the next couple of days, at times playing around and trying to pinch some articles from Windh’s camp. But they got no food. When they became more insistent and unmanageable they had to be driven away by throwing rocks at them, a typical technique to drive wolves away.

A few days later some campers arrived and two of them slept outside their tent at night. One of them awoke near midnight to find a wolf sitting on the end of his sleeping bag. The wolf would not budge but eventually was made to go away. Later that night a wolf bit the other camper sleeping outside and severely gashed the man’s head. The wolf was driven off and the man was taken to hospital where he had 50 stitches. The following morning, officers shot two wolves, a male and a female, near the camp site.

People on the island said they fed the wolves as cubs a year before and fed the wolves days before the attack. It seems that the wolves had lost their fear of people and came to expect food from them. On the night of the attack, when food was not forthcoming, one of the wolves had got a bit rough, not very aggressive, but too much for the human frame to bear.

Mistaken Identity

It is likely that some reports of wolf attacks, where incidents have not been thoroughly checked by experienced investigators, are attacks by dogs or wolf-dog hybrids. Other animals can be mistaken for wolves, such as coyotes in the US and jackals and hyaenas (Hyena hyena) in India. Is the creature glimpsed far off in the twilight a wolf, dog or an altogether different species? Correct recognition, even when close-up, can be incorrect.

3. Defensive Attacks

We have seen that wolves put up little resistance when cornered, even when people are threatening to remove their cubs. This is surprising for a predator with such a fearsome reputation.

You would expect large, pack-living predators like wolves tenaciously to protect their growing family from human attack. Equally, you would expect them to guard their kills and chase off these frail humans. Yet David Mech, a foremost American researcher with over 40 years experience specialising in wolf research in the field, says he is never in danger from wolves, even when he and other workers chase wolf packs away from fresh kills (Mech 70:293).

An final illustration of the lack of mortal danger from wolves comes from a Manitoba trapper, Stuart Jansson, in the 1990’s (McNay 2002). Just as night was closing in he found signs of a recent wolf kill of a deer. Marks on the ground showed the carcass had been dragged into the cover of some nearby trees. Jansson walked into the clump of trees and was stopped in his tracks by a loud growl just a few feet ahead. It was too dark to see anything so he stepped back into the open. The next day he returned and found the tracks of four or five wolves. Just a jaw and a few hairs were left of the deer. He had plainly blundered almost straight into the kill the night before, apparently guarded by a wolf who had threatened him with nothing more dangerous than a growl.

© Wolf Trust 2004. All rights reserved.


Port Moody kayaker fights off starving, predatory wolf

Port Moody kayaker fights off starving, predatory wolf
Incidents are extremely rare and the public should not be alarmed, conservation officer says
Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A kayaker’s life-and-death struggle with a hungry wolf on B.C.’s remote north coast — the second wolf attack in the province in seven years, and the first thought to involve predatory intent — has prompted a conservation officer to warn against taking wolf encounters too lightly.

“This was a predatory wolf attack,” conservation officer James Zucchelli confirmed in an interview from his Bella Coola Valley office. “That fellow was perceived as a prey source. He was attacked with intent to eat. The wolf saw him and took off running at him.”

Zucchelli cautioned against public alarm since such incidents are extremely rare, adding he’s not heard of another predatory attack during his eight years as a conservation officer.

But he said the attack reinforces the fact that wolves are predators and capable of attacking humans under certain circumstances, including when they are desperate for food.

The fit, 31-year-old Port Moody kayaker was setting up his tent on a beach at 4 p.m. in the Anderson Islands off northwest Aristazabal Island, a straight-line distance of about 125 km north of Bella Bella, when an old female wolf emerged from the bushes and attacked, Zucchelli said.

The kayaker fought with the wolf for a few long minutes, suffering bites to his leg and hands as he attempted to pry its jaws apart and put it in a headlock.

He eventually dragged himself and the wolf several metres down the beach to his kayak, removed a 10-cm knife from his life jacket, and repeatedly stabbed the animal.

“He proceeds to start filling this thing with holes in the neck and chest area,” Zucchelli said. “The wolf gives up, gurgling and bleeding, and wanders off into the trees.”

Unable to paddle due to his hand injuries, the kayaker called for help on his marine radio.

Employees from the floating King Salmon Resort at Borrowman Bay, about seven km to the southeast, arrived to remove him and his gear from the island and locate the dying wolf in the nearby bushes, killing it with a shotgun blast to the head.

The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Tanu took the kayaker to hospital in Bella Bella, where he was treated and released. Zucchelli returned to the island and spotted a lone wolf on the shoreline that circled the area of the attack and then disappeared into the bush.

Subsequent tests on the dead wolf showed it did not have rabies, but was emaciated at just 25 kg. A healthy female wolf should weigh closer to 40 kg. The stomach contents included the jaw of a river otter, a feather, and bones from a rat fish scavenged from the beach.

“There was nothing good in [the wolf’s] stomach — shrapnel off the beach,” Zucchelli said.

A man was severely bitten by a wolf in 2000 while sleeping outdoors in his sleeping bag at Vargas Island in Clayoquot Sound. He received more than 50 stitches to his scalp. Two young wolves who had a history of being fed by humans were killed.

That doesn’t appear to be the case in this latest incident, which occurred July 5 but is only now coming to light. “There was no indication of any feeding or garbage, that anything had been placed on a regular basis on that little patch of beach to suggest a wolf attractant,” Zucchelli said.

“This wasn’t a beach used on a regular basis. There was no fire pit. There is no evidence these wolves had been fed by humans, period. There was nothing.”

Zucchelli still plans to conduct follow-up talks with north coast fishing lodges to reinforce the importance of not feeding wild animals.

The kayaker, who was on a four-week solo trip from southeast Alaska to northern Vancouver Island, asked not to be identified or interviewed, saying he doesn’t need the publicity and is concerned that news of the rare incident will only give wolves a bad image.

The Ministry of Environment estimates there is a stable or growing population of 8,000 wolves in the province.

A 2002 study by Mark McNay of the Alaska department of fish and game documented 80 cases in which wolves showed little fear of humans in Alaska and Canada over the past century.

His study documented 39 cases of aggression from healthy wolves (six involving humans with dogs), 12 of known or suspected rabies, and 29 cases of fearless but non-aggressive behaviour. Aggressive non-rabid wolves bit people in 16 cases, six of them severe. He could find no evidence of wolves having killed people.

McNay’s report estimates there are 52,000 to 60,000 wolves in Canada and 7,000 to 10,000 in Alaska.

“There is a dog bite epidemic in the United States. There are almost 5 million victims annually — about 2% of the entire population. 800,000 need medical attention. 1,000 per day need treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Approximately 26 die per year. Most of the victims who receive medical attention are children, half of whom are bitten in the face. Dog bite losses exceed $1 billion per year, with over $300 million paid by insurance.” From http://www.dogbitelaw.com

What about all the children addicted to crack or meth? How about the 20,000 or so teenagers who die in auto crashes every year? More people die from hitting the anti’s sacred deer, moose and elk on the roads every year than have ever been bitten by wolves in recorded history. Elkherder and his kind would like to blunt and disavow the facts, but the truth is cows, dogs, bees, and people kill people ever year. Wolves do not.
thanks wolfy for this..

Deer Kill on wolf Creek

Stacey and I on our whale tour was talking to Trent Davies, who told us of a wolf he saw and watched him take that hind leg of a deer, of course we had to check it out, we found the remains of the deer and some scat, we also checked out the area, wolves will keep coming back to there kill site even after its all gone, they will chew on the bones for marrow and gristle. I have not heard of wolves being in town again for a few weeks, but I’m sure we will be seeing them soon. I’m some what convinced that they have a patern and if we had enough documented sightings over this last year we could some what figure out when they may appear again. Last year that worked for Stacey and I we had encounters 2 to 3 times a week for 2 months straight.

This year we are more focused on collecting scat and if we are lucky we might have a chance encounter with the wolves.
Deer kill

Kayaker Attacked By Wolf

This story comes from The Vancouver Sun

The kayaker, who chose to remain anonymous, was on a four week solo excursion from South-East Alaska to Northern Vancouver when he chose to camp for the night on a beach in the Anderson Islands. At about 4 PM, when the 31 year old was setting up his tent, a female wolf emerged from the woods, and immediately ran towards the man. For the next several minutes, he fought with the animal, attempting to pry her strong jaws from around his leg and hands. He suffered multiple cuts and bight wounds in the process. Eventually he drug the wolf along with him over to his kayak, were he pulled a knife from his life vest and began to stab the creature. Finally, after a number of knife wounds to it’s chest and neck, the wolf retreated into the woods.

Next the man used his marine radio to call for help, as his hands were so badly damaged from the attack that he was unable to paddle his kayak. A boat from a near by resort came to collect him and his gear. The rescuers also found the wolf dying nearby in the woods and shot it as well. When the body was analyzed, it was found that she weight about 55 pounds and was severely malnourished. A healthy female should weigh in the range of about 85 to 90 pounds.

The scary thing about this incident is that it has been deemed a predatory act. In other words, the wolf was so hungry and malnourished that it was willing to risk attacking a person in order to get food. It also goes to underscore the point of how dangerous these creatures can be, and that it’s still possible for them to do a great deal of damage to us while out in the wilderness.

The kayaker elected remain anonymous because he didn’t want to make a big issue out of the attack. He felt that it gave wolves a bad name and he recognized that this was a rare and extremely isolated incident. It’s kind of refreshing to hear someone take that position, as by now he probably could have sold the rights to his story to Outside magazine or some publishing house.

Officials warn residents to leave the wild animal alone

Juneau predator catches and releases pet pug
Officials warn residents to leave the wild animal alone

The Associated Press

Published: February 9, 2007
Last Modified: February 9, 2007 at 05:33 PM

JUNEAU — A lone, black wolf that Juneau residents have dubbed “Romeo” appears to have lost its fear of humans, prompting officials to set up signs reminding people to keep their distance from the wild animal.

The wolf has been spotted on several occasions attempting to “play” with dogs and people on and around frozen Mendenhall Lake, one of his haunts, the Juneau Empire reported.

Recent pictures circulating locally by e-mail show Romeo getting acquainted with a few local dogs, including a small, light-colored pug.

In one shot, he’s making off with the pug as if it were a rabbit. Subsequent photos show the pug squirming on the ice after he’s been released. The little dog suffered no apparent harm.

“In the last week, there have been several stories of the wolf picking up little dogs and several stories of people touching the wolf, which isn’t good,” said Neil Barten, wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Wild animals that lose their wariness around people are often shot, but officials want to avoid that option.

“We don’t want to get put in that position, so that is why we are really trying to get the word out that it is a wild animal,” Barten said.

They may try nonlethal tactics to keep the wolf at a safe distance from people, such as a gun and beanbags or rubber bullets, Juneau District Ranger Pete Griffin said. They’ve also discussed ways to keep humans away from the wolf.

“We’ve discussed the possibility of citations, but we want to get people sensitive to the fact that interacting with the wolf is not a good thing to do,” Griffin said.

Reports of the wolf’s behavior, and especially the behavior of the human spectators, led officials to set up signs at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center reminding people to stay clear of the animal.

“History has proven that when people are that close to wolves … that’s when problems happen, and nobody wants problems to happen,” Barten said.

Because the wolf has interacted with dogs so frequently and freely, officials also worry that it might contract diseases such as rabies or mange, at which point it would have to be killed.

People have a great sense of community pride regarding the wolf, and that should continue as long as people act responsibly around it, Griffin said.

“There’s the danger of loving this wolf to death,” he said. “We have to remember that it is a wild animal. For it to continue to survive, it has to remain a wild animal.”

TOO FRIENDLY? Pet owners and encounters with their dogs might put an end to Romeo’s wanderings.

Celebrity wolf stirs up passionate debate
TOO FRIENDLY? Pet owners and encounters with their dogs might put an end to Romeo’s wanderings.

Anchorage Daily News

Published: April 9, 2007
Last Modified: April 9, 2007 at 10:56 AM

JUNEAU — This is a story about pets, the owners who love them and a lone, black wolf that has for the past four winters, depending on who you talk to, either harassed or entertained the community they all live in.

This is also a story about life in a town on the edge of the wilderness and what some say can be the sometimes fine line between observing and interacting with nature.

Four years ago, when a black wolf began roaming the snow and ice playground that is the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, wildlife watchers and photographers such as Nick Jans were thrilled.

In the morning, the animal could be seen walking on frozen Mendenhall Lake, crisscrossing the ski tracks and running over to the edge of this capital city’s famous attraction, the Mendenhall Glacier.

Talk about the wolf’s escapades spread quickly. After all, Juneau is a political town — and a small one to boot — in which gossip and chatter can seem like a sport in their own right.

Pretty soon, the wolf had a steady following, a fan club of photographers, dog walkers and skiers, who came out to see him do his thing.

By the end of the first year, the wolf had a name: Romeo.

“This is the right size town for this kind of thing, I guess, but it’s also a unique wolf,” said Jans, who lives close to the lake and has seen Romeo more than 100 times over the past several years.

A wildlife watcher, Jans has observed wolves all over Alaska’s wild places, from the Southeast to the Arctic. “There are plenty of wolves that could have come down here and not been as tolerant as he has been of us.”

A gaggle of photographers, sometimes as many as 25 or 30, would show up and wait for the perfect shot of the wolf. Some of them got it and managed to sell a few photos to the city’s tourist shops downtown.

A few locals bought the framed photos in a show of support for Juneau’s newest hero.

But the friendly observations took a turn for the worse, some here say, when local dog owners began letting their canines run free with Romeo during winter walks on the frozen lake. Unleashed, golden retrievers, spaniels and even pugs would wrestle and chase the wolf.

Forest Service rangers and wildlife biologists warned that the wolf should be treated like a wild animal — with caution and respect — no matter how friendly he appeared.

Dogs should remain on leashes in areas where Romeo was known to hang out, new signs warned in the area.

The community formed two sides on the Romeo issue. One was the thought that Romeo had become part of Juneau, said Neil Barten, a wildlife biologist with Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game. The other half thought the wolf was a wild animal that would be better off living in the wilderness.

Eventually, Romeo ran in to trouble within the community. The first snatch was a beagle taken by the scruff of its neck by the wolf’s jaws in broad daylight, in front of witnesses. Then in January it was a pug, a small tan-colored canine that could have resembled the snowshoe rabbits Romeo favors for lunch.

Romeo released the dogs unharmed. But last week, Romeo snatched a small Pomeranian and didn’t let go. The pooch’s body has yet to be found.

The incident again raised the point of what, if anything, rangers should do about Romeo. Forest Service officials often order a wild animal that has lost its wariness around people to be shot or tranquilized and relocated. But with public debate so heated over Juneau’s Romeo, rangers so far have heeded calls from the community to focus on the public, not the wolf.

“We don’t consider the wolf to be near the problem that we see in the people not watching their dogs out there,” said Barten.

Letters to the editor in the local paper suggested there were strong opinions on both sides when it came to what should be done with Romeo.

Some said he should be shot. Others blamed dog owners for irresponsible parenting.

Wildlife officials reiterated: a wolf is a wolf, no matter how much he plays with dogs.

Romeo’s most loyal fans feared the story of Juneau’s wolf could come to a tragic end.

“If he ends up dead, it’s because some person reacted to something, not because of what the wolf has done,” Jans said.

The debate has even reached the hallways of Harborview Elementary School, where Tom McKenna’s fourth-grade class got into a heated discussion last week after one student brought in the latest Romeo article.

“The wolf population is overgrown, and he should be harvested,” said Tucker Harper, 10. Dressed in a camouflage parka and hat, Harper said he and his father are avid hunters.

Luke Sewell, 10, who brought in the article, said killing the wolf was out of the question.

“He deserves to live in the place he’s used to living.”

The class showed real concern for tourists, who come by the hundreds of thousands each year to Juneau.

“We grew up here so we know what to do, but they might not know how to deal with him,” said Sarah Cerne, 10. “He has his territory and we have ours. Sometimes he crosses that line, though, like with the dogs.”

Chances are, Juneau’s summer tourists will never see Romeo. When Mendenhall Lake thaws, the wolf disappears. Whether he comes back next winter remains the question.

“Every time I see him, I think about taking a good, long look,” Jans said. “Because I don’t know if that might be the last time I see him.”

Daily News reporter Sabra Ayres can be reached at sayres@adn.com or 1-907-586-1531.

%d bloggers like this: