22 Feb 2010, 7:04pm
Homo sapiens Predators
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The Danger of Wolves to Humans

Mikhail P. Pavlov. 1982. Appendix-A, Chapter 12, “The Danger of Wolves to Humans” (pp 136-169) IN The Wolf in Game Management. First edition 1982, 2nd edition 1990, Agropromizdat, Moscow. (Translated from Russian by Valentina and Leonid Baskin, and Patrick Valkenburg. Edited by Patrick Valkenburg and Mark McNay)

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:

Cases of severe unprovoked aggression by wolves toward humans are numerous, so we touch upon a very dramatic subject. Society needs more complete information on the problem to evaluate the true danger of predatory wolves and take precautions. There are tendencies, even among scientists, to believe that aggression by wolves toward humans is quite rare (138). To overcome this, it is necessary to describe some horrible, heart-stopping details of this aggression in Russia, just for the sake of further safety. This is the only way to persuade people how threatening wolves (i.e. anthropophagy) can be. The greatest danger is posed by rabid wolves in settlements and villages. Each rise in the wolf population results in increasing aggression, mostly by rabid animals.

According to N.V. Turkin, in 1870 an explosion of wolves led to numerous cases of humans being bitten by rabid wolves, though only a few of these cases became the subjects of newspaper articles (210: 77). To prove his statement, the above-mentioned author referred to 38 newspaper articles on rabid wolves in various regions of Russia.

Today, even hunters are not well versed in the statistics of wolf rabies. Only the most notorious cases have become known. Thus, in the book “In a native land”, 1952, issue 2, P.V. Plesskiy mentioned that in 1924 in the town of Kirov (then Viatka) two rabid wolves bit about 20 people during one night. Ten of these people died. In documents from the Kirov Game Management Department I found information that in spring 1954 a rabid wolf in Urzhumskiy district bit 3 people and then was killed. …

Later, … P.A. Manteifel regarded as tales and fantasies all rumors about wolves attacking humans. As thorough a researcher of wild animals as he was, he could not accept the very idea of aggression of a normal (non-rabid) wolf towards a human. It was his principle to trust to personally proven facts only. Like many other scientists, Manteifel was sure that through long experience with humans, the wolf has developed an instinctual fear of humans that forbids it to even approach a human.

Manteifel’s idea was so firmly implanted in his numerous apprentices that it would probably still be popular today if it had not been for the events of World War II. These events caused most people to change their general attitude of good will towards the wolf. As a consequence of wolf-human interactions during wartime, a special commission was established, not very widely known then, under the supervision of the technical-scientific council of the Hunting Department in the Russian Federation. Facts about man-eating wolves led to steps intended to increase defenses against wolves. P. A. Manteifel headed the commission, and it’s conclusions and recommendations were presented in a report in November 1947. …

According to the conclusions of the report, sometimes, man-eating wolves proved to be wounded, or weak due diseases, but sometimes the animals were quite “normal”. The document recorded some specific cases of wolf attacks on children and women: 1920, Voronezhskiy district, Roman forestry area, an attack on a woman; 1935, Kuibishevskaya Oblast, villages of Kochetovka and Kanemenki, attacks on two children; 1935, Minsk Oblast, near the settlements of Kozli and Zachastse, attacks on two children; 1936, Minsk Oblast, Lyubanskiy district, attack on a child; 1937, in the same district, more than 16 children were bitten by a wolf; in 1940, in Domanovichskiy district of Minsk Oblast, more than eight children and some women; 1945 in Georgia, in Akhalkalakskiy and Bogranovskiy districts, some children were attacked; 1945 in the settlement of Dagestan, some children attacked; 1946, Voronezh Oblast, Polenovskiy district, a child was attacked; at the railway station at Bologoye, two children were stolen by wolves from a house; 1946 in Kaluzhsk Oblast, Ludinovskiy district, 10 children were attacked; and in 1947 in Kirovskiy Oblast, 27 children were attacked. The document stated that most of the children were torn to pieces.

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