Gray wolves once ranged across North America. But by the 1930s, they were nearly extinct — trapped, poisoned and hunted by ranchers, farmers, and government agents. With protection under the 1973 Endangered Species Act, the wolf population rebounded. But wolves lost federal protection in 2011.
Now, with hunting permitted in many Western states, the future of this once endangered species may again be in question. Can we live with wolves? Earth Focus travels to Montana and Wyoming to find out.
So one of the reasons that people are afraid of wolves is because the fear for attacks on livestock and/or Humans. How well founded is this fear? let’s take a look at the facts, shall we?
I guess many Americans will be familiar with Politifact and the Oregon section had the following on fatal wolf attacks on Humans in the Rocky Mountain states
In a recent article in The Oregonian, Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, spoke some about those risks.
“Wolves have attacked and killed people in Canada and Alaska,” Dennehy told The Oregonian. “It is extremely rare and has never happened in the Rocky Mountain states, but we advise people to keep your distance from wolves and any wild animals.”
Oregon is home to an estimated 24 wolves, a small population. But a 2010 reportby the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service puts the number of wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain population (which includes Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon) at more than 1,650.
This got us wondering whether it could be true that there have been no documented cases of run-ins with wolves in that fairly large area. Plus, we’re always looking for a change of pace.
We started where we always start: the source. Dennehy pointed us to a 2002 report from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research called “The fear of wolves: A review of wolf attacks on humans.”
Because “the vast majority” of global wolf research happens in North America, the report says, wolf attacks in Canada and the U.S. have been extremely well documented. That documentation — and the fact that attacks are so rare — allowed the authors to detail every attack in the past century.
All told, the study’s authors found 18 wolf attacks in North America — 12 in Canada and six in the U.S. Of the attacks in the U.S., four occurred in Alaska (as did an unspecified number of small incidents along a road where truckers had taken to feeding the wolves) and two in Minnesota, in which the victims weren’t injured. Two of the attacks in Alaska left the victim dead of rabies. Both of those happened in the 1940s.
Dennehy also sent us a news clip from a paper up in Saskatchewan that detailed the 2005deathof a young Ontario student who was on a walk near a Saskatchewan mining camp when he was attacked and killed. A sad story to be sure, but one that happened a ways away from the Rocky Mountains.
We try to be thorough, so we also placed a call to the International Wolf Center, an organization that tries to advance the survival of wolves through education.
We spoke to Jess Edberg, who is based in Ely, Minnesota. Minnesota has the most robust wolf population outside of Alaska.
“Overall, in North America and around the world, a wolf attack on humans is very rare,” Edberg said. “In the lower 48, we haven’t had any attacks on humans.”
She added that many of the attacks that do occur often involve sick animals or animals who had been fed or allowed to become accustomed to humans.
Edberg did point out the Alaska Department of Fish and Game had recently concluded that a woman found dead in 2010 on the Alaska Peninsula was killed by wolves.
Finally, she sent us looking for two studies on wolves. One report, which shared an author with the first Norwegian report, looked at Scandinavia and found that over the past 300 years, 94 people have been killed by wolves. All of those cases, the report found, were before 1882 and most were children under the age of 12.
The second, more pertinent report, done in 2002, by Mark E McNay for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game looked at wolf attacks in Alaska and Canada and found that “despite (a) large and widely distributed wolf population, no human deaths have been attributed to wild, healthy wolves since at least 1900, and biting incidents or bluff charges are rare enough to warrant publication in scientific journals.”
Of course, that report was published before the two deaths we mentioned above.
History and perception of wolf attacks worldwide
Map showing the number of wolf attacks in France by département from 1400 to 1918.
Map of Eurasia showing the distribution of wolf attacks, with blue indicating areas where both rabid and predatory attacks occurred, purple for purely predatory attacks and green for purely rabid ones.
Chart showing the hypothetical stages leading up to wolf attacks on humans in 15th-19th century Italy. While these factors are now largely absent in modern-day Europe, they are still present in rural India, where many attacks took place during the late 20th century.
In France, historical records compiled by rural historian Jean-Marc Moriceau indicate that during the period 1362–1918, nearly 7,600 people were killed by wolves, of whom 4,600 were killed by non-rabid wolves. Numerous attacks occurred in Germany during the 17th century after the thirty years war, though the majority probably involved rabid wolves. Although Italy has no records of wolf attacks after WWII and the eradication of rabies in the 1960s, historians examining church and administrative records from northern Italy’s central Po Valley region (which includes a part of modern daySwitzerland) found 440 cases of wolves attacking people between the 15th and 19th centuries. The 19th century records show that between 1801-1825, there were 112 attacks, 77 of which resulted in death. Of these cases, only five were attributed to rabid animals. In Latvia, records of rabid wolf attacks go back two centuries. At least 72 people were bitten between 1992-2000. Similarly, in Lithuania, attacks by rabid wolves have continued to the present day, with 22 people having been bitten between 1989-2001. Around 82 people were bitten by rabid wolves in Estonia during the 18th to 19th centuries, with a further 136 people being killed in the same period by non-rabid wolves, though it is likely that the animals involved in the latter cases were a combination of wolf-dog hybrids and escaped captive wolves.
Russia and the Soviet Union
As with North American scientists later on (see below), several Russian zoologists after the October Revolution cast doubt on the veracity of records involving wolf-caused deaths. Prominent among them was zoologist Petr Aleksandrovich Manteifel, who initially regarded all cases as either fiction or the work of rabid animals. His writings were widely accepted among Russian zoological circles, though he subsequently changed his stance when he was tasked with heading a special commission after WWII investigating wolf attacks throughout the Soviet Union, which had increased during the war years. A report was presented in November 1947 describing numerous attacks, including ones perpetrated by apparently healthy animals, and gave recommendations on how to better defend against them. The Soviet authorities prevented the document from reaching both the public and those who would otherwise be assigned to deal with the problem. All mention of wolf attacks was subsequently censored.
Asian Hakurou by WildSpiritWolf
In Iran, 98 attacks were recorded in 1981] and 329 people were given treatment for rabid wolf bites in 1996. Records of wolf attacks in India began to be kept during the British colonial administration in the 19th century. In 1875, more people were killed by wolves than tigers, with the worst affected areas being the North West Provinces and Bihar. In the former area, 721 people were killed by wolves in 1876, while in Bihar, the majority of the 185 recorded deaths at the time occurred mostly in the Patna and Bghalpur Divisions. In the United Provinces, 624 people were killed by wolves in 1878, with 14 being killed during the same period in Bengal. In Hazaribagh, Bihar, 115 children were killed between 1910-1915, with 122 killed and 100 injured in the same area between 1980-1986. Between April 1989 to March 1995, wolves killed 92 people in southern Bihar, accounting for 23% of 390 large mammal attacks on humans in the area at that time. Police records collected from Korean mining communities during Japanese ruleindicate that wolves attacked 48 people in 1928, more than those claimed by boars, bears, leopards and tigers combined.
There were no written records of wolf attacks on humans prior to the European colonization of the Americas, though the oral history of some Native American tribes confirms that wolves occasionally did kill humans. Tribes living in woodlands feared wolves more than their tundra-dwelling counterparts, as they could encounter wolves suddenly and at close quarters.Skepticism among North American scientists over the alleged ferocity of wolves began when Canadian biologist Doug Clark investigated historical wolf attacks in Europe and, based on his own experiences with the relatively timid wolves of the Canadian wilderness, concluded that all historical attacks were perpetrated by rabid animals, and that healthy wolves posed no threat to humans. Although his findings were later criticized for failing to distinguish between rabid and predatory attacks, and the fact that the historical literature contained instances of people surviving the attacks at a time when there was no rabies vaccine, his conclusions were nonetheless adopted by other North American biologists. This view subsequently gained popularity among laypeople with the publication of Farley Mowat‘s semi-fictional 1963 book Never Cry Wolf, with the language barrier hindering the collection of further data on wolf attacks elsewhere. Although some North American biologists were aware of wolf attacks in Eurasia, they dismissed them as irrelevant to North American wolves.
By the 1970s, the fear of wolves was largely counteracted by the emergence of a pro-wolf lobby aiming to change public attitudes towards wolves, with the phrase “there has never been a documented case of a healthy wild wolf attacking a human in North America” (or variations thereof) becoming the mantra of people trying to create a more positive image of the wolf. Although several non fatal attacks had been reported since 1985, it wasn’t until April 26, 2000 when a 6-year-old boy survived an attack by a wolf in Icy Bay, Alaska that the assumption that healthy wild wolves were harmless became seriously challenged. The event was considered so unusual that it was reported in newspapers throughout the entire United States. Following the Icy Bay incident, biologist Mark E. McNay compiled a record in 2002 of wolf-human encounters in Canada and Alaska from 1915-2001. Of the 80 described encounters, 39 involved aggressive behavior from apparently healthy wolves and 12 from animals confirmed to be rabid.The first fatal attack in the 21st century occurred in 2005, when a man was killed in Saskatchewan, Canada by wolves that had been habituated to humans, while in 2010, a woman was killed whilst jogging near Chignik Lake in Alaska.
basically….. there is no reason to fear a wolf attack however when in wolf country always be cautious. We all need to protest against this delisting and start protecting the wolf. One way of doing this is by supporting Wolf Haven International (and if you want more wolfhaven you might visit this blog done by one of their caretakers )
Wolf Haven International