When We Become The Hunted Part 2 by Juanita Amero
The death of Kenton Joel Carnagie was the center of last month’s contribution to The Outlaws. This will be the ending to a two-part article dealing with the event and its after effects. It was a sad ending to his young life at the fangs of the wild predator canine better known as wolf.
The wildlife biologists, DNR offices, and Fish and Wildlife Services as well as several wolf recovery experts have taken immense interest in this incident. This edition will deal with their opinions and/or findings.
For more than a decade, any wolf expert would confidently state that wild wolves would not kill humans. Ed Bangs, coordinator for wolf recovery in Montana has been following the events before and after Kenton’s death in Saskatchewan. In light of Carnagie’s death, he is revising the above-mentioned statement, however only slightly.
He is quoted as saying: “If you look at the history of wolf attacks in North America, wild wolves just don’t attack people, and I don’t think the Canadian incidents change that,” says Bangs. “These were wild wolves that were turned into big dogs because they became habituated. Dogs kill about twenty people each year and put tens of thousands in the hospital. Wild wolves do their damnedest to stay away from people.”
Bangs goes on to say that wolf behavior is extremely complicated, but they can become domesticated, and in this transition from “wild to mild”, they will behave erratically. He also strongly supports the hunting of wolves as a management tool. He does believe hunting is the perfect way to keep the wolf from becoming a domestic dog.
These wolves that killed Kenton lived in a very unnatural state, so it’s not that surprising that they might behave unnaturally. Some believe it to be localized abnormal behavior associated with these dump sites which are in the near vicinity of where Kenton was staying. Those wolves had been notorious garbage hounds for a long time.
“To have that many wolves at one place in the winter is highly unnatural,” says another biologist. “In the wild, you might have six or eight wolves in a pack by the end of the winter, traveling a huge area to get enough to eat. These wolves didn’t consider humans a threat so much as a food source. But habituated wolves still have the characteristics and instincts of large predators, and that spells problems for people.”
An extensive study of wolf attacks compiled by Fish and Game biologist Mark McNay in 2002 indicates that most wolf-human encounters in Alaska and Canada over the last century involved wolves that had been habituated by humans. However, as wolf populations expand and deer family herds decline or redistribute, humans are bound to see more wolves roaming closer to rural communities for longer periods of time. Keeping them away from livestock, garbage and other easy forage will be key to minimizing potentially violent encounters.
So this much we have established…. wild wolves who have become accustomed to humans will and do attack humans. This leaves a very heated question of who is responsible for this.
Actually our government is responsible for introducing, protecting, and spreading wolves. It seems that when a cougar attacks or kills a human or any wild animal for that matter, it is always the persons’ fault for not puffing up or looking in their eyes. It is always our fault for “building in their habitat, limiting their food supply, or enticing them into our yard with our dog”
As one man puts is quite frankly in a newspaper commentary when discussing the debate of wolf introduction:
“What if I had pictures circulated with one of my daughters holding a pup and smiling and then accompanied it with all sorts of lies like “they never attack people” or “they do so much good for our neighborhood by keeping out deer and howling at night” or “all of you benefit from the reluctance of burglars to come into our neighborhood”. Would you let me off the hook when the dogs attacked and killed? Would you let me go unpunished and even let me get some more large dogs to replace those I “lost”?”
What has emerged in Saskatchewan and other areas are doubts about wolf attacks, and if wolves did attack then it was caused by a dump and inadequate government environmental enforcement on garbage disposal. So the dump caused the attack. The solution seems not wolf control and public education but more environmental laws on garbage sites. Are we seeing the real problem here or passing the buck. Is the government passing blame from one agency to another until things blow over? So the interesting burning question is: How much liability does the government have? In a moral sense, are they responsible for the harm and death the wolves are bringing to humans in the areas of wolf introduction? I will leave you this month with these questions?
Date and location have been set regarding the inquest into the death of Kenton Joel Carnagie. The inquest will be held the week of February 5 – 9, 2007 in Prince Albert Saskatchewan. The location of the judicial proceedings will be the Queens Bench Court House.
The following is from the Saskatchewan Coroners Act, 1999
Why are inquests held?
A coroner, with the approval of the chief coroner, shall hold an inquest where it is necessary to:
1: Determine the identity of the deceased and how, when, where and by what means he or she died.
2: Inform the public of the circumstances surrounding a death.
3: Make dangerous practices or conditions known and make recommendations to avoid preventable deaths.
4: Educate the public about dangerous practices or conditions to avoid preventable deaths.
Coroner’s inquests are public. I wonder who they will find responsible and what they will recommend.
I am sure there are many trying to find closure regarding Kenton’s death. I hope that this will help them in their journey to make sense of this tragedy. At this time, it is my hopes to revisit this topic as we find the results to this inquest.