News on a much-debated topic: Do wolves kill people?

Here is the web address for a story today from the Juneau (Alaska) Empire. I hope the link will work; I don’t know the mechanics of citing properly.

If the link doesn’t work, go to “Juneau Empire” and look for story title.

The story is of a teacher out jogging in a remote village (Chignik Lake), run down, killed, and partially eaten by wolves as predation. The story is self-explanatory and addresses issues regarding wolves preying on people.

I have no opinion on this, except to note that it’s highly unusual, as the story says, and I’ve seen this issue debated online before with the claim that wolves almost never attack humans as prey. I offer the story for what it’s worth.

Dan Joling, the author, worked for the Empire for many years in Juneau and is a reputable journalist.

I dunno if anyone ever held that wolves never attacked anyone - the usual claim is that wolf attacks on people are very rare.

Even coyotes, which are considerably smaller than wolves, have been known (again, very rarely) to attack and kill people. There was a case a couple of years ago very similar to this - lone woman, killed and eaten by coyotes:

It happens. Just not very often.

I thought I’d heard the statistic somewhere that wolves killing people had only happened a handful of times–like less than 10–ever. But I can’t remember where I read it. It may have been in one of the mailings from the wolf-oriented charity I donated to a couple of times, who won’t stop sending me stuff now. I’d try to look up the cite but it’s 3 minutes til I have to leave here. If I remember I’ll try to look it up from home.

I think it also depends on what subspecies of wolf you’re talking about. I read that European wolves are much more aggressive than North American wolves.

Do wolves kill people? No.

Just the same as guns wolves don’t kill people people kill people by dressing up as furries and playing pretend in the woods and then one wanker who is trying to impress some chic, dressed as a sexy wolf with giant boobs, gets a little overzealous and goes and kills some poor schlub passing by. So the lesson learned today is, “Furries are weird.”

What, if they grip you by your Husky?

I’ve heard the same. The theory I’ve heard to explain it is that European wolves co-evolved with humans since before we were human, and so evolved instincts on how to deal with us; when we could and could not be hunted, and how. North American wolves first encountered humans when they were already accomplished & well armed hunters, and without those instincts died whenever then went up against humans. So the only instincts they developed for dealing with humans is “stay the heck away!”

I did some Googling (not a scientifically thorough one, by any means, however) and was unable to find the statistic I mentioned upthread. You may want to disregard it since it probably came from the pro-wolf charity and is therefore from a biased source. Sorry my info wasn’t more useful.

The number I’ve heard for fatal bear attacks is around 120 dead in the 20th century, and my understanding is that wolf attacks are less than that (maybe 60 or less) this is for North America.

Some have even speculated that no healthy (non-rabid) wolf has ever killed a human in North America. The truth isn’t quite that, it appears it has happened a handful of times in the 20th century, and a little more frequently before then. In many of the cases prior to the 20th century the victims were under the age of 12.

Earlier than that there is a different tale. In Europe historical records (which by the nature of European historical records more than 200 years old, will not be 100% accurate or complete) point to thousands of instances of wolves killing humans from the years 1200-1750 or so. I think France alone had records indicating over 3,000 killed over a 400 year span (still only like 8 a year.)

So the answer is that historically wolves do kill people and have killed enough people historically that it’s foolish to say it doesn’t happen, but it’s fair to say it is extremely rare.

The article mentions the predator response to the woman running. I know from personal experience that dogs like to attack from the safe position of being behind the person(runner). Dogs are easier to fend off with a direct frontal confrontation. In my area there have been several coyote bites from behind also. I confronted a coyote once and it stared me down fearlessly before leaving. So I imagine wolves would prefer to attack from behind and would even be encouraged to attack when confronted with a person’s behind presenting such a defenseless target. A runner is not going to outrun an animal of this sort. If cover is not immediately present, a frontal defense offers the best survival mode. Of course any weapon like a stick or even a shoe would be more menacing.

Wikipedia, for what it’s worth, lists 12 wolf attacks on humans worldwide since 2003, only two of which were in North America.

How many fatalities?

Wolves don’t kill people; werewolves kill people.

And werewolves are also people.

Really, Opal? Would it kill you to actually read the link? It’s a wikipedia article, fer Christ sakes.

First off, I saw a lot of different numbers that looked a lot like “there’s a rumor over in such and such place that x many blah blah” and then here was a huge chart that I didn’t feel like reading and analyzing. Since it was posted with a data point number next to it, I assumed the person posting it (you) had parsed it out, and asked you for a data point that I assumed you would also have.

I don’t come to MPSIMS to spend 45 minutes on a Wikipedia site trying to piece together the heresay from the verified stuff, etc, or to do lots of reasearch, especially when it looks like someone else already did exactly that and it would be much faster to just ask. Worst case scenario, you say “I don’t know, that wasn’t what I was counting.”

And yeah, at 12:39am when I’ve been up all day and I’m trying to keep my eyes open long enough to finish what I’m doing so I can go to sleop, reading and analyzing a bunch of wikipedia stuff including charts/tables is not what I’m, going to spend my time on. I come to the SDMB to enjoy myself and relax. This is MPSIMS not GD or GQ. Or hadn’t you noticed?

Why take such a rude tone when I was just asking a very simple answer that could easily have been answered as “I don’t know, but if you read the wikipedia page it probably says somewhere.” The rudeness in your tone says a whole lot more about you than it does about me.

You remind me of my mother. When I’d ask her how to spell a word, she’d make me look it up in the dictionary even though she knew how to spell it. I can understand that for little kids, to teach them how a dictionary works, but this is when I was in my teens. It’s asking someone to repeat research when you know full and well what the answer is. (Or if you didn’t, you could say that and suggest politely that the wikipedia article might contain that info.)

What is it about the SDMB that makes people stop being nice to others by default? Sheesh.


There’s a book that came out recently (and I’m very sorry that I can’t recall either the title or author), but in the course of explainingh one historical mystery, it claimed that, contrary to current wisdom about wolf attacks being rare, they were, in fact much more common in Europe during the Middle Ages. I have no idea what evidence, if any, he cited for this (I only read a review, not the book itself). If true, it explsains more about the fears people had about the woods and wolves.

Aside from the one in the OP, there was only one post-WWII fatality in North America due to wild wolf attacks, and it was debatable whether that was actually due to wolves. There were also three or four from domesticated wolf attacks.

So yea, at least in North America, wolf attacks in the wild are vanishingly rare.

Not really sure why there are so many more attacks in Eurasia. Perhaps wolves are more aggressive there, or human settlement abuts their habitat more closely. They also seem to favor Belarus specifically, which makes me suspicious if there isn’t just a cultural habit of blaming unexplained deaths on wolves in Belarus.

The only known case in Sweden is some two hundred years old and the wolf had been raised among humans and was therefore not afraid of them.

Like all predators, wolves are opportunists. Whether they’d attempt to kill and eat a human depends on several things: how hungry are the wolves? How easy would it be for them to find other prey? How big is the person they’re looking at? Are there other people close by?

MOST of the time, wolves are probably smart enough to realize “People are fairly big, they’re often armed, they usually have friends nearby… so there’s probably easier prey to be had.” But if a very hungry wolf came upon a small, isolated human, and thought he had surprise on his side… I have no doubt that the wolf would attack.

That DOESN’T mean humans need to live in terror of wolves- just that it’s silly to dismiss all danger, and cling to factoids like “There is no evidence of wolves killing humans.” ANY large predator MIGHT attack you, if it’s hungry enough and if it thinks it has the drop on you.