First fatal wolf attack recorded in North America?

by Sarah Gilman

Conservationists have long assuaged the public’s fear of wolves by saying that there have been no documented instances of a healthy wild wolf killing a human being in North America. Until now, that is.

On Nov. 8, a search party found the partially consumed body of 22-year-old Kenton Joel Carnegie in the woods of northern Saskatchewan. Carnegie had gone for a walk and didn’t return to the surveyors camp where he was working.

Paul Paquet, a University of Calgary ecologist who investigated the case, says a recent increase in energy development has drawn more people to the remote area and left it peppered with open garbage dumps. Four wolves fed regularly at a nearby dump and had lost their natural fear of people.

Those wolves are the most likely culprits, and at least three have been killed. But investigators have not yet ruled out the possibility of a bear attack.

To prevent wolves from becoming accustomed to humans, Paquet advises securing any food left in dumps or campsites. People should stay at least 100 yards from wolves, he says.

In the United States, there are some open dumps in wolf country, says Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator Ed Bangs. But, he adds, many people already bear-proof their garbage, and authorities haze overly bold wolves with noise-making "cracker shells" and rubber bullets.

Given that a handful of fatal wolf attacks have been recorded in India and Europe, experts say such an attack in North America has always been a possibility. But the odds are extraordinarily low, points out L. David Mech, a leading wolf biologist: "Wolves are still not any more dangerous than they ever were."

© High Country News