Wolf Attacks by Juanita Amero
My articles in the past have been of the almost romantic type, telling of the legends in the outlaw wild canine world. In the end, the renegade wolves always come out as the persecuted good guy. As much as I would love to, I cannot go out into the field and study these predators first hand and therefore rely on a number of sources to bring the knowledge to me. Over the years I have collected a vast library and savor every bit of it. It has been widely discussed whether a healthy wild wolf has ever attacked a human on this side of the world. Many researchers claim that such attacks have never occurred in North America. Some say they most surely have. Everything I scoured could offer no documented cases of wild wolves attacking us… humans.
Biologists claim there to be no “documentation” either.
But there was a little tidbit that remained hidden between the lines. In order for an attack to be “documented” these four criteria must be met.
1. The wolf must be killed, examined and found healthy.
2. The wolf must have never been in captivity for any part of its life.
3. Must be an eyewitness.
4. The victim must die. Bites are not considered attacks according to biologists and when all four of these are met, then and only then can it be considered a “documented” attack. In retrospect, this would make it very difficult to document for the record any historical account of a wolf attack.
The biologists go on to tell me that the wolves of Asia and North America are one and the same species. I had once pondered if actually they were. The horror tales of Russia, Scandinavia, and India to name a few must surely tell of a genetically different wolf. What would make them such ferocious man-eaters? To this day, wolf attacks are common in parts of Asia. Maybe it can be slightly explained by this quote from Milton Skinner (author/researcher).
“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….”
I honestly believe there is some truth to this. The areas where attacks occur on humans are the same areas where the people have no firearms or other predator control. Well it’s a start anyway.
Biologists as well as myself have assumed that when a wolf attacks a human there is something wrong with the wolf. It may have been in captivity or be sick.
Historically, the four reasons for attack are rabies, extreme hunger, familiarity (trying to tame wild wolves or zoos) and the “heat of the chase” (interrupting a fresh chase and wolf kill). I think that a predator’s fear of man is both an instinctive and learned behavior, for the most part. Attacks by a truly wild wolf are very real, but wolves raised as pets or in zoos are well documented to attack and kill us. The accounts are numerous and disturbing. A little three-year-old girl was attacked and killed by a wolf on a chain on June 3 1989. The wolf tore up her kidney and bit a hole through her aorta. One month later, a five-year-old boy lost twelve inches of his intestine and colon and suffered bites to his stomach, neck, legs, arms and back in another wolf attack in Minnesota. Zoos carry abundant records of wolf attacks on people, especially little children. The child climbs the fence to pet the “dog” and is attacked. It’s obvious that these domestic settings for wolves are unnatural and once man and wolf become accustomed to one another in close quarters, consequently the attacks occur.
Although attacks in the wild North America are uncommon, they do/did very much exist, both in years of early settlement and today. I stumbled across this excerpt from an 1888 newspaper called the Saint Paul Daily Globe. It sent chills down my spine:
“NEW ROCKFORD, DAK. March 7, 1888 – The news has just reached here that a father and son, living several miles northeast of this city, were destroyed yesterday. The two unfortunate men started to a haystack some ten rods from the house to shovel a path around the stack when they were surrounded by wolves and literally eaten alive. The horror-stricken mother was standing at the window with a babe in her arms, a spectator to the terrible death of her husband and son, but was unable to aid them. After they had devoured every flesh from the bones of the men, the denizens of the forest attacked the house, but retired to the hills in a short time. Investigation found nothing but the bones of the husband and son. The family name was Olson. Wolves are more numerous and dangerous now than ever before known In North Dakota.”
So here we have an eyewitness and a family name. Some say the wolves were rabid, but anyone that knows anything about this fatal disease knows that rabid wolves would not be able to function as a pack. Rabid animals are loners… they suffer their dementia alone and die alone.
The name of George B. Grinnell popped up for he investigated several attacks on humans. Although he did dismiss many reports for lack of evidence, he could verify an attack in northwestern Colorado. An eighteen your old girl went out at dusk to bring in the cows. She saw a gray wolf on a hill and shouted at it to scare it away. When she picked up a rock, the animal snarled and attacked her. The wolf grabbed the girl by the shoulder, threw her to the ground and bit her severely on the arms and legs. She screamed and her brother, who was nearby with a gun, came and killed the wolf. The wolf was a healthy young animal. Grinnel himself examined this same girl. She carries several scars from the attack in the summer of around 1881.
There are other verifiable accounts of attacks on humans by healthy wild wolves in North American history and now that I uncovered the unreasonable criteria required for an attack to be officially documented, it explains the lack of scientific “proof” of these encounters. They most certainly did happen; they do happen.
In 1947, a Vancouver man hunting cougar was attacked by a healthy pack of seven wolves. He shot the leader of the pack and the rest of the pack instantly tore the animal to shreds while the hunters escaped.
In 1992 Clarence Lindley was attacked by a 125-pound wolf while hunting horseback. It attacked his horse causing it to fall. Lindley was able to grab his saddle gun as the horse fell. The wolf proceeded to attack Lindley who fired at point blank range and killed the wolf with a shot to the neck. The pelt was flawless black and gray measuring seven and a half feet from its toes to its snout. The wolf was not rabid and thought to be from Canada. Just a few of the many “verified” encounters.
This has been a topic of discussion in communities both rural and online. Some have questioned whether the poor reputation of the wolf has any background or truth. I always assumed there were some, but didn’t realize to what extent. Does this change my romantic view of the outlaw wolves… not really. Do I believe these tales of horror…. sure do. They are wild efficient predators, vicious and unmerciful killing machines. What makes a number of these animals attack and terrorize humans…. who knows? Doubt we ever will. When we watch the news, it is filled with stories of us…humans, attacking and killing one another, but it doesn’t make us all murderers. I wonder what the wolves must think of us?
This has been an exhausting eye-opening topic for me and I commend those who egged me on, resulting in my last minute change of article submission. But alas…. next issue, I am back remembering my outlaws, keeping the campfires burning and the legends alive.