Are wolves a worry?

We now have a wolf, or maybe more, moving into Southern Oregon. If wolves become regular residents here, should people who use the woods be worried about their safety?

— Samuel C., Eagle Point

Samuel, it's highly unlikely you'll become a wolf meal. Wolves do on occasion attack humans, but the incidents are extremely rare. In fact, according to a report on MSNBC, there are only two documented cases of wolves in the wild killing people in North America. In comparison, 34 fatal dog attacks occurred in 2010 in the U.S.

One of the fatal wolf attacks came last spring. Candace Berner, 32, a special-education teacher in Alaska, was attacked by at least two wolves while out for a late-afternoon jog outside Chignik Lake, a fishing village on the Alaska Peninsula, about 475 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The other death occurred when a pack of wolves killed Kenton Joel, a 22-year-old Ontario engineering student, in northern Saskatchewan in 2005. Carnegie had gone for a hike and didn't return to the surveyors camp where he was working. Authorities said wolves were in area because people had been leaving garbage in open dumps.

Approximately 20 other fatal wolf attacks were reported in the past 10 years elsewhere in the world, mostly in the area of the former Soviet Union.

A number of other fatal wolf attacks occurred in North America in the past half-century, but all involved "domesticated" wolves.

The MSNBC report quoted Alaskan wildlife officials as giving advice of what to do if confronted by a wolf. It sounds very similar to advice Southern Oregonians have heard regarding cougars: Don't run. Face the animal. Make yourself appear as large as possible. Yell, wave your arms, throws stones or other objects and resist any attack.

We seriously doubt you'll be faced with that prospect, Samuel. The bigger threat posed by wolves, say those opposing their spread, is to deer, elk and livestock.


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