17 Feb 2008, 12:34pm
by admin

Wolves Are Targeting Humans As Prey

by Valerius Geist, PhD., Professional Biologist, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science, the University of Calgary

Note: The following essay was originally sent to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on Feb. 9th, but they have not printed it as yet. However, it was posted at Wolf Crossing today [here].

I am one of two scientists asked by the Carnegie family to independently investigate the death of Kenton, their son. The coroner’s inquest into this matter was narrowly focused on who killed Kenton Carnegie, to which the correct answer is: a wolf pack. It did not address wider policy issues such as conservation legislation, for the tragedy would almost certainly not have happened in British Columbia despite that province’s share of wolf attacks on humans, nor failures in scholarship that led to the wide and dogmatic acceptance of the view that wolves are not dangerous to humans. That myth has killed at least three persons in North America in the past decade, two of which were highly educated young people. Nor did it dwell on what circumstances lead to the habituation of wolves to humans, one of which is scarcity of natural prey, which could be due to risen wolf populations. In short, there is more to the story than has been addressed by the court or the press.

Nobody involved in the tragedy, including the wolf specialist working on behalf of the coroner’s office, noticed that the habituated wolves had been targeting humans. However, students of urban coyotes described a stepwise progression of behavior, which is shown by coyotes that are targeting children in urban parks. This pattern of increasing familiarization with potential prey is identical in wolves and coyotes. In short, the situation at Camp North Landing was a disaster waiting to happen. Ironically, while biologists studying coyotes affirmed that coyotes targeted humans as prey, wolf biologists denied that wolves were dangerous to people.

The view that – in the absence of rabies - wolves do not attack people has taken so solid a grip in current times, that even after an exploratory attack by two wolves on two camp personnel at Camp North Landing, the threat posed by wolves was not fully recognized. A captive pack of wolves destroyed their new keeper, a biologist with a master’s degree, within three days, a tragedy traceable to the belief that wolves do not attack people. A similar fate befell a lady keeping a pack of wolf hybrids for similar reasons. The view of the harmless wolf may have prevented North American wolf specialists from developing an understanding of the circumstances when wolves are very dangerous to people and when they are not. In North America, unlike in some European and Asiatic countries, the circumstances when wolves pose a danger to humans is rare, but is not absent.

The most important sign that wolves are targeting humans as prey is wolves patiently observing humans. Such wolves may be short of natural prey or they many be well fed on garbage and already habituated to humans. Wolves patiently observing humans have begun the process of slow and steady familiarization with humans, that finally leads to an attack on humans. Such wolves need to be taken out. In British Columbia any licensed hunter can do that. The limit on wolves is three and the season long. It’s a safety valve. Healthy free-living wolves are virtually unhuntable, and the most likely candidates to be taken out are wolves disadvantaged by age or condition or rejected by their pack.

A historical review of wolves and humans shows that nobody has as yet succeeded living in peace with packs of wolves, unless there was a buffer between wolves and humans of livestock and pets, especially dogs, and the wolves were hunted and shunned people. Nor have we paid attention to the experiences of native people with wolves, who pointed out correctly that wolves eat and disperse the evidence of wolf-killed humans. Wolf packs attacking dogs pulling sleds were not uncommon in the north or in Greenland. The Danish explorer of Greenland, Peter Freuchen lost one companion to wolves, shot one of two wolves advancing on his children, had some harrowing experiences himself with wolves and describes how he could not be provisioned because every dog team send his way was halted by wolf attacks.

The fairytale by the brothers Grimm of Little Red Riding Hood is, alas not based on myths, ignorance or a misunderstanding of wolves, but on very and terrible experiences with wolves throughout the centuries. The “modern” view that wolves are harmless is based not on science, but on flawed scholarship and politics too long to discuss in a letter to the editor. The philosopher Kant’s quip that we learn from history that we do not learn from history has again been validated.

Valerius Geist, PhD.

17 Feb 2008, 10:35pm
by Gregory S.

The wolf biologists, defenders of wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife, the game departments, Endangered Species Act people, will tell the public what they want the public to know, Not what the true fact of the matter is.

When the AZ/NM elk decline to the point the wolf is going to be starving to death THEN WHAT? the wolf will be coming to town, ranch houses, and other places of civilization for the free meal that the wolf people fed them. They fed them in pens before turning them out in the wild, so the wolf on the AZ/NM border isn’t afraid of humans like the Canadian wolf is, the wolf here in AZ/NM has counted on humans for a lot of free meals. So this hybrid wolf isn’t the same as Canada wolf where there wolf is afraid of humans. What is going to happen when the wolf comes to town with rabies? A rabied fox or bobcat is a handful when found hanging around your house.

The wolf people know there isn’t enough food for the wolf to make it any long length of time now. Are these select people getting a big pay check waiting on there 20yr retirement before facing the fact that the wolf cant make it with out a better food source.

23 Feb 2008, 6:16pm
by David W.

As some one who has spent the last 3 years tracking wild wolves on the coast of B.C., I can say that there is a lot of misinformation and fear mongering that goes on in the media and with curtain groups of individuals. As mentioned in the above article there have been 3 deaths in North America by wolves. But two of those wolf attacks happened at a wolf sanctuary if I’m correct; not in the wild. As for the attack that happen in Ontario, those wolves may have been conditioned by humans and may have been fed by Kenton and his fellow friends in the past. This pack was also near a dump, again conditioned and most likely habituated to humans.

I have seen and came in contact with wolves that have become conditioned to humans. These wolves have become accustomed to being fed by humans. When a wolf comes looking for a handout from a human (its food source) and there is no food being thrown at it a wolf, it can become aggressive.

A fed wolf is dead wolf.

23 Feb 2008, 9:15pm
by Mike

There have been many recent attacks by wolves on humans in B.C. [here, here, here]. Thankfully none fatal.

Bruce Hemmings, who filmed Undue Burden (click on the pic in the sidebar) found historic newspaper reports of over 100 people killed by wolves in North America.

The Mexican Grey wolves (hybrid wolf-dogs) in his film are bred and raised in captivity, and then released. They are human habituated from birth.

Dr. Valerius Geist wrote an excellent report: When Do Wolves Become Dangerous to Humans [here].

17 Mar 2008, 9:39am
by Frank N

ANY animal can be dangerous. Domestic dogs are responsible for millions of attacks on humans every year, many fatal. Deer are responsible for thousands of injuries. Cattle, bison, snakes, bees, moose, mice, rats, horses, cats….you name it, all cause far, far more injuries (and, in some cases, deaths) than do wolves, bears, cougars or sharks. Yet, in the rare event of an attack from one of these predators, the fear mongers have a field day. One hundred people killed by wolves historically in North America? I can quote source after source “proving” that that is NOT true, but let’s accept that figure. I don’t care if it’s two hundred, or five; it would still be only a fraction of the number killed by deer in traffic accidents alone. Over 300 people were killed by domestic dogs in the U.S. between 1979 and the late 1990s. Currently about 20 kids die a year after being attacked, while nearly one million people a year are treated for bites. Ninety to one hundred people a year die from allergic reactions to bee stings!

So let’s stop the fear mongering and come back to reality. Any animal CAN be dangerous, even, as we are all aware, the two legged kind. Attacks by wolves and other large predators are very rare. Most people are far more likely to be kicked to death by their favorite horse, killed in an accident on the way to work, bitten by a black widow spider hiding in the wood pile, or mauled by fido.

Statistically, a walk in the woods is far safer than a walk in your back yard; and certainly safer than a walk down the streets of any city in America.

17 Mar 2008, 11:14am
by Mike

I’d like to see those statistics, Frank. As someone who makes his living walking in the woods, I can assure you that it is not safer than walking in the backyard. The ground in the woods is uneven and often steep, and there many things out there that can trip, poke, and/or bite you.

However, you are correct in your contention that wild animals do not cause many human deaths, compared to abortion, for instance, which has claimed the premature lives of over 40 million human beings since Roe v. Wade in this country alone. Or compared to malaria, which kills millions of people worldwide every year. Or AIDS, or malnutrition and starvation.

For an interesting tally of War deaths in the 20th century, see Source List and Detailed Death Tolls for the Twentieth Century Hemoclysm here:


17 Mar 2008, 3:22pm
by Frank N

Very interesting information, but then we are not comparing deaths and injuries caused by wolves to those caused by abortion, AIDS or starvation. We are comparing them to those caused by other animals. The statistics are very easy to come by on the internet. According to Unoblemind.com (and several other sites) the most dangerous animal on earth (outside of man) is the mosquito, which causes over two million deaths per year. Snakes are second with over 100,000 deaths.

My point being, that whenever there is a rare wolf attack (or someone dredges up “historic reports” of such attacks), the bloggers start blogging, the newspaper writers start writing and the anti-wolf crowd starts screaming. One hundred in over five hundred years since Columbus landed! Google “deer attacks”. Dozens and dozens of stories about deer attacking hunters and others every year. Where are the blogs? Where is the outrage? One hundred thousands deaths caused by snakes a year! Yet I hardly ever see (or read) a story about someone being bitten by a snake. Why? Because it isn’t news, any more than someone being bitten by a mosquito, being kicked by a muley or being bitten by a wolf is news (except possibly as a curiosity).

Any insurance salesman will be happy to give you the statistics regarding the occurrence of accidents and injuries in and around the home.

I too spend a considerable amount of time traipsing around the woods. I have been threatened by elk and moose (when I stumbled upon a calf); I have been bluff charged by bears and bighorn; I have been dive bombed by birds protecting their nests. Yet every time I have seen wolves (quite often), they have beaten a hasty retreat.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment.

17 Mar 2008, 5:40pm
by Mike

You are welcome. Regarding the effect of wolves on humans, in addition to the essay above by Dr. Geist, I highly recommend the purchase and viewing of Undue Burden: the real cost of living with wolves, linked to in the right sidebar.

23 Jun 2008, 12:27pm
by Rhonda G.

On September 6th, 2001, in the early dawn, my two daughters along with the eldest girl’s 4 year old poodle, Sasha, sat atop the hill at Points North, in their vehicle, waiting for the ferryman to signal them to come down to cross to South End, Reindeer Lake where my son-in-law was teaching school. My daughter opened the driver’s door, let Sasha out, light a cigarette,then stepped out six or seven seconds later — just in time to see a huge, honey-colored wolf snatch the four pounder away. Obviously the wolf had been lying in wait, perhaps for my daughters.

My daughter was out of her mind with grief and her younger sister had to fight to stop her from running after the wolf. A short time later the signal from the ferryman was given and they began a slow descent down to the ferry. Suddenly the honey-colored wolf jumped into the center of their path, eyes blazing weirdly, leering at my daughter. She felt it was actually laughing at her and nothing would convince her, then or now, that it wasn’t. She stepped on the gas, intending to run it over. The wolf maintained its stance and; only at the last second jumped out of the way.

The Indians at the ferry had seen it all and told my girls they had never ever seen a wolf act so brazenly. They were shocked. Having more commonsense than your average wolf biologist expert (ex: an unknown quantity; spurt: a drip under pressure) I didn’t automatically think the animal rabid. As a dog (descendants of wolves/wild dogs) breeder, I have seen the gamut of personalities within a variety of breeds. Like human mammals there is a plethora of behaviors stemming from an even greater variety of causes.

Investigators should have combed the site where poor Kenton Carnegie was found in the same manner they would have in a suspected murder site. I’m willing to bet they would have found the DNA of the honey-colored wolf, but then they would have tried to convince us it was a grizzly. Would that people wake up and realize the fairy tale is real.

1 Mar 2009, 4:51pm
by lindalou

Most people who feel the wolf has a place and purpose in the environment, are keenly aware that wolves do have a “saturation point” where there is no longer enough space for wolf and man to coexist and accept that at some point bounties and/or hunts will be reestablished. I also take exception to the “100″ people killed by wolves in North America. Refer to : “Wolves Behavior, Ecology and Conservation” by L. David Mech. I agree with David, a fed wolf is a dead wolf. Just a few interesting statistics from Wisconsin. In 2006, 7 people died in deer/car fatalities. In 2007, 337 folks were killed by drunk drivers. And from 12/12/08 through 2/21/09 21 snowmobilers died. Two went through thin ice, 19 died hitting “something,” and of those 19 deaths, 15 involved alcohol. So I really don’t feel the human race has to fear the wolf more than the biggest predator of all.



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