Wolves are back after successful re-introduction efforts in multiple parts of the U.S. Booming numbers of Northern Gray Wolf packs are bringing increased clashes with humans and the occasional horror stories. And it's poised to get worse as pack numbers increase and encroach on communities. How to Survive a Wolf Attack.
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Wolves have stalked children at rural Idaho bus stops in recent months. Increased wolf sightings around other Idaho towns have communities worried about the safety of both children and pets. Citizens have taken to carrying pistols when walking dogs and even taking children to bus stops.
Here's the skinny on wolves: They are efficient killers, killing large game animals like moose, elk, caribou, deer, and bighorn sheep as well as a consistent diet of small mammals like boar, birds, and lizards, eating up to 20 pounds of meat in one sitting. They most often travel and hunt in packs ranging from approximately 6 - 10 wolves, sometimes larger.
With that said, environmentalists and animal rights advocates want people to believe that wolves aren't a threat to people. Ranchers of course don't agree with that -- but typically ranchers are looking at the continuous slaughter of livestock by area wolves.
Wolf advocates don't understand what happens when wolf populations increase and natural food sources dwindle and these wolves start crossing paths with humans. If you spend any time at or near an area of the country where wolves have been re-introduced or packs have simply traveled into nearby wilderness areas (such as Washington State wolf packs heading into Oregon or North Carolina wolves heading into Tennessee), you need to read this.
"'Wolf populations are increasing faster than anyone had imagined," the legislators said in their April 23 letter. They urged the commission to act quickly 'to maintain social tolerance for gray wolves in northeast Washington in the timeliest manner for residents...'"
"...WDFW (Washington State) wildlife managers estimate between 50 and 100 gray wolves are present in the state, and that the wolf population nearly doubled in 2012. As of March, there were 10 confirmed packs and two suspected packs, plus two packs with dens in Oregon and British Columbia whose members range into the state. Most of the state's known wolf packs are found in Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties."
Despite what you might believe, wolves are dangerous
Yes, wolves are dangerous to people.
Throughout history, wolves have roamed forests and grasslands in Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Asia where there have been numerous accounts of attacks on humans including deaths numbering in the hundreds and sometimes even over a thousand during different periods of the last few hundred years. Wikipedia reports these accounts of wolf attacks in detail.
What about the U.S.? T.R. Mader, Research Director of a North American wildlife society in South Dakota, compiled data on wolf attacks, and published a report that is a real eye-opener on the dangers wolves can pose to humans.
Some of these wolf attacks are shocking, yet documented attacks.
What about wolves in America?
That might go against what you've been lead to believe about wolves, here in the U.S. Because reports of wolf attacks on humans have been few and far between over the years, it's lead many people in America to conclude that dangerous wolves are a figment of Hollywood's imagination, but historically speaking that is actually not the case.
Wolves are dangerous. Though for the most part, wolves in the U.S. have a lot of space, and humans typically don't live in the national parks and forests where these wolves have so much space to themselves.
The problem now? Booming numbers of wolf packs are shrinking wolf territory; more wolves means more competition for food between packs; and anytime food is suddenly scarce in an area, humans may suddenly become a food item, simply because wolves are hungry and humans are handy; add to that, some areas of the country (like national parks) don't allow hunting or shooting and these wolves may have no fear of man at all.
Looking at the history of widespread wolf attacks in other parts of the world, that appears to be a formula for a wolf attack.
Hikers, Campers, Fishers, Climbers, Hunters Be Aware
If you live in the western or northern states of the U.S., as well as North Carolina and Tennessee, and spend any time hiking, camping, fishing, climbing, or even hunting, you need to realize that there may be (or may be soon) a wolf pack or two nearby that you may have a close encounter with.
Specifically, I'm talking about the Northern Gray Wolf. It's these growing numbers that is resulting in a growing threat to people.
You may already know the ins and outs of black bears, grizzly bears, and mountain lions -- how to minimize attack risk; what to do if you spot one of these dangerous animals, and what not to do -- but now you need to know the ins and outs of wolves as well.
So that you can know how to avoid a wolf attack as much as possible, while at the same time able to defend yourself should a wolf attack take place.
Already with these growing numbers of wolves are growing attacks on livestock, as well as random reports of wolf sightings and sometimes wolves stalking humans and even the occasional attack on a human.
Like this one in Idaho, that ended when an armed hunter shot and killed a wolf as it charged her:
Idaho is a prime example of what happens when rural communities, such as a logging town near a major mountain range or national park or forest, have a pack of wolves that have settled into the nearby mountains, or are even just passing through.
Women and children are in the most danger from a wolf attack, before an adult male, simply because wolves see children and women as an easier meal, posing little or no danger.
Wolf attacks in World War I
In World War I, according to Wikipedia, "starving wolves had amassed in great numbers in Kaunas, Vilnius and Minsk and began attacking Imperial Russian and Imperial German fighting forces, causing the two fighting armies to form a temporary truce to fight off the animals."
Native Americans also record wolf attacks on humans
In North America, Native Americans (more so those in forested areas) also faced a danger from wolves, though not as frequently as other people in previous centuries and in other parts of the world may have faced.
Why did Native Americans face less attacks?
Most likely because wolves had a lot more space and range area for hunting in North America, than perhaps they had in other parts of the world (especially Europe), where higher human populations competing for local territory and even game animals caused an encroachment on wolf territory and wolf food supplies, motivating wolves to turn on humans.
That is why wolves will likely become a growing threat in the western United States
This is why growing numbers of wolves in the Rockies, Cascade Mountains, and other wilderness areas of the U.S. today are set to pose a greater threat to hikers, hunters, and campers -- and sometimes rural towns -- in the years ahead.
Wolves compelled to attack in the months ahead
Strangely, to some of you, other forces at work in the world may also compel these growing wolf numbers to attack humans in the months ahead.
For example, in a time of widespread disaster, talked about so many times on this site -- your hopes to "bug out" might be a lot more dangerous than you might have previously thought, if wolves see you as competing for food, or simply because so much hunting is taking place following a collapse, that big game has fled the region, and now wolves are starving, and need a new food source -- you.
Defending yourself against a wolf attack
Historically, communities that didn't go after predatory wolves with firearms, faced the greatest risk of ongoing attacks.
What can we learn from this? It's time to consider carrying a firearm into the backcountry. A shotgun is the weapon most likely to hit an attacking wolf, since a shotgun sprays "shot" in a wide area, vs a single bullet fired in a straight line that needs to be on target in order to take down a charging wolf.
(Currently, laws may vary from state to state as to what kind of firearm you can carry into a national park. Check the laws before packing a firearm that may be illegal in your state. (In a time of collapse, though, those rules may simply no longer exist. Now you're on your own.)
What about a rifle? A long range rifle would be a great way to take down a wolf on a distant ridge line. That's two weapons you / your group can carry with you into the backcountry.
It's not open season on wolves yet
As a word or caution: Don't start shooting at wolves, just because you see one or more somewhere in the distance, that aren't posing a threat. At the present time, wolf attacks are not frequent. Don't start picking off wolves with your long range rifle; if numbers continue to grow in your area, and attacks do start happening, the legal thing to do is compel local state officials to expand wolf hunts.
Of course, if you're being stalked by a wolf or a pack of wolves, and your life or the lives of others may be in danger, then you are in your legal right to defend yourself with your firearm.
When do you fire? By no means am I an expert on wolves, but from what I've read about wolves and what can detour a wolf and even an entire pack of wolves, I would advise firing your shotgun -- a warning shot -- the first time you see a wolf.
Don't let it come close. Don't give it time to decide whether or not it should attack.
The sound of a shotgun is going to be a monstrous roar to the sensitive ears of a wolf. If you've been spotted by a wolf pack, and yet they haven't attacked, that may be because they're still sizing you up, and determining whether or not you are dangerous. Once a wolf decides that you're not dangerous, and that you're an easy meal, and it realizes it's hungry and that food has been hard to come by the last few days or weeks; this is when it can go into "prey drive".
Now you're dealing with a wolf that is a lot more aggressive and dangerous than it may have been just moments before.
Again, I'm not a wolf expert -- but I do understand how predatory animals think. It's the same reason why wolves and cougars are more likely to go after a small child that has strayed from his or her parents, and the reason why wolves are known to go after aging, injured, or sick big game. It's an easy kill in their eyes with little or no risk of injury to an attacking wolf.
Now, most of us aren't likely to face a threat from a pack of wolves. Not today at least. But this summer and fall a few of you might, it just depends on where in the Rocky Mountains or Cascade Mountains and adjacent national forests and national parks you may find yourself in.
Other dangers from wolves: Rabies and wolf kills
With increased wolves in the wild, there are also increased chances that you may come across a rabid wolf; a wolf with rabies, though rare, is a very dangerous, unpredictable animal most prone to attacking humans. Fearless behavior coupled with foaming at the mouth are a sure sign that this wolf is rabid. Kill it before it kills you.
Finally, there is always the chance that you may stumble on to a wolf's kill; for example walking alongside a river, there might be a bend in the river up ahead where just around the corner a pack of wolves might be feeding on a carcass, and have no idea you're in the area. They didn't hear you over the sound of the river. So, stumbling onto a wolf kill can also trigger an attack. Wolves are highly territorial and protective. Hopefully they'll run off but sometimes they might not.
What the experts advise about preventing wolf attacks
In wolf country (same goes with cougar country), keep children close by at all times, preferably in camp. Also, keep dogs leashed, even large guard dogs. Reports of people owning hybrid wolves (part dog / part wolf) as guard dogs have shown that many have simply disappeared without a trace; theory goes that female wolves in the area woo male hybrid wolves away from their homes -- which is when a pack of wolves hidden nearby likely kills and eats these hybrids.
Keep a clean camp and cook and store food away from sleeping areas.
Just as you would do in bear country, hang food, toiletries, and anything else with a scent from a rope and tie it high in a tree, out of reach. Don't bury food. (Pilgrims in early century America would bury fish to help fertilize plants, but in some cases doing that would draw wolves, who would dig it up.)
Using a "Howl" to Locate and / or Draw Wolves
When in wolf country, carry yourself as though a wolf knows you're there, so that you're always ready and alert to mount a defense. Are there wolves really in the area? You can "howl" like a wolf, and if any distant howls return your way, you'll know that you're in wolf territory.
There's a drawback to that: Howling like a wolf may draw a pack from a distant area to investigate you. Now they know you're there. So, despite what's been said elsewhere, howling may not be a good idea -- not unless you're hunting wolves and want to draw them to your location where they can be shot from a blind.
What if you're hunting elk or other game and using a "call" to attract one of these animals? That "call" can sound like a dinner bell to a wolf. If you're in known wolf territory, you may want to start hunting with a couple scouts -- who can protect you from a wolf attack, while you actively are "calling" game to your location.
Better safe than sorry -- the Idaho woman in the news report above (see video) was hunting and using a "call" when she triggered a wolf attack. So realize it can happen.
Face to face with a wolf
Never run. Running can cause a wolf to go into "prey drive" and chase you down and attack.
Never turn your back on a wolf. A wolf can see this as an opportunity to strike. You avoid it's strike by making a wolf think that its dangerous to attack you. So show a wolf that you're on guard and alert.
Don't stare into a wolf's eyes -- a wolf can see you as a challenger (especially an alpha male or female) and that can trigger an attack.
Use your firearm to shoot warning shots, in an attempt to scare it away.
If that doesn't work or you don't have a gun, be aggressive, and appear dangerous -- jump up and down and shout and scream with ferocity. Throw rocks, but don't stay crouched down picking up sticks long, or you might suddenly look like a smaller animal to the wolf, and embolden it to attack.
If none of this is working, climb a tree and hope to wait them out or even hide in a nearby car.
Note: If you have a gun, it's not necessary to shoot and kill a wolf if it's not actually charging you, or if you're not being circled by a pack. Instead, fire over the head of a wolf; if that doesn't work to scare it off, fire your shotgun at the ground a distance away from the wolf; let it hear the sound of "shot" striking through the brush, hitting the ground, and of course it's going to hear the roar of the actual blast.
That could be enough to send that wolf or pack of wolves running for a more remote area; in some instances though wolves are reported to have lost a fear of gun shots. In this case, you will have to shoot to kill. Once a pack knows it's being hunted and in danger, it can easily leave the area, and become more timid around future encounters with humans.
Clubs can deflect wolves, but blades and spikes can kill wolves
People attacked by wolves have used clubs to deflect their attacks (even swinging a gun), but a vicious wolf intent on your death will continue to attack. In wolf country, a survival knife kept in a sheath you can unbuckle and get to quickly can take the fight out of a wolf, with just one vicious stab (aim above and behind the shoulder blade and don't let go of your knife, you may need it again in a moment); a wooden baseball bat with spikes and well timed swings can win a fight against a wolf; but a pack of wolves is a different story.
In wolf country, if you want the best chances of success, you need to have some scouts with you, or other people also carrying weapons, and able to fight in the heat / terror of an attack.
Fortify your camp to protect against wolves
Wolves are said to be afraid of fire, so if you're in an area of wolves (you hear howls in the general area or even spot wolves on a nearby ridge), set several small camp fires around the perimeter of your camp, if you feel that these wolves pose a threat. If there are multiple people in your party, have a couple people keep watch during the night in rotating shifts, while also feeding these fires and keeping them lit.
Extreme scenarios - Lost in the wild
What if the worst case scenario occurred? Your small engine plane goes down deep in a remote forest, and as you struggle to survive, hundreds of miles from civilization, you and a couple other survivors suddenly find yourself being stalked by a pack of wolves just two days after your crash.
Though not very likely to occur, what if it did happen? How would you survive? Here's a few tips for being stalked by a pack of wolves, or living and surviving in the mountains, with a pack of wolves that has just spent the last several days going hungry due simply to a harsh winter and due to reduced numbers of game animals.
And now here you are. To these wolves, you look like a possible meal.
What are you going to do?
During daylight hours, set and bait traps; trapping wolves has long been a successful way to eliminate wolf populations. Pit traps of course can be effective killers. But so can poisoned meat.
Where are you going to get meat? Use the bodies of any dead passengers that were on that plane. No dead passengers? Scour plane debris for survival packs that should contain food. If you don't have a shovel you can't build a pit trap, so build yourself dead-fall traps. Then use a little bit of food from your survival packs (which any small plane should carry nowadays; always ask your pilot what he has on his plane for survival gear and food; additionally bring your own).
Baiting blades with flesh, blood
It's reported that sharpened blades baited with flesh can be used to kill wolves; figure out a way to bait several blades with flesh and blood, and then mount these blades so that they're sticking up from the ground or from wood (Native Americans are rumored to even have used blocks of ice), where they won't be easily dislodged.
When a wolf licks the flesh and blood off a blade, the blade slices the wolf's tongue, causing the wolf to slowly bleed out and eventually die. (Other than reports I've read on Native Americans in the past, I have no official documentation that this actually works, but I have to say it seems like a way that could be effective).
Collect logs from the forest (or drift wood from river banks) and build log encasements around your tents -- kind of like a beaver dam, where a beaver holes up inside. If your tent is encased in a number of thick sticks and logs, a wolf is going to have a hard or impossible time getting through a barrier of branches and logs while you sleep at night. Besides, you'll hear any wolf activity, giving you time to get to your gun or secondary weapon (like a spear or crossbow or spiked baseball bat) should you be out of bullets or simply have lost your gun at some point during your travels.
Build an alarm system
Tie fishing line around your camp, at about the shoulder height of a wolf, and then again at about knee height (so a wolf can't sneak underneath); then string cans and bottles with rocks inside as a noise alert to intrusion. If you have small bells (bear bells), even better. When a wolf brushes up against tied fishing line, it will shake these cans and bottles (or bells), and create noise. You'll know that a wolf or wolves are coming into your camp, hopefully giving you time to get to your shotgun and fire.
In other parts of the world that have suffered the greatest number of attacks, remote homes and villages with brush and grass nearby were at greatest risk. Wolves could stalk silently through the tall grass and brush, without being spotted, providing a wolf with an opportunity to strike. With that in mind, remove any tall grass and brush from the immediate area around your camp, giving you visibility in every direction, as well as any trails you frequent to water sources or to relieve yourself.
Build a wall of sharpened sticks
If you're going to be camped in one area for any length of time -- such as a "bug out" scenario we've discussed in detail in other articles -- you can take the extreme step of building a low lying wall with several sharpened sticks pointing outwards, presenting a painful obstacle for a wolf or wolves to try and pass through.
Of course, you may be most at risk when you go outside your camp to get water or to relieve yourself and of course when you range far and wide to hunt or scavenge for food.
Walking with scouts is a common method used in parts of Africa, where dangerous wildlife is most common. Scouts there are used to spot hippos, big cats, and even killer bee swarms before they pose a danger.
The Top 10 Survival Gear
The survival gear that makes this Top Ten list might surprise you. Effectiveness, ease of use, "survival power" and finally the price all play a factor. If our nation collapses or catastrophic disaster strikes, what gear will you have on hand?