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Wolf Attacks Teen In Minnesota: How Rare Are Wolf Attacks On Humans?

By Josh Lieberman

A wolf attacked a teenager in Bemidji, Minn., on Saturday, in what is being called the first confirmed wolf attack in the state’s history. The attack on 16-year-old Noah Graham occurred on Lake Winnibigoshish at the West Winnie Campground. The campground is run by the U.S. Forest Service has been closed since the wolf attack.

Graham was outside of his tent on Saturday morning when the attack occurred around 4:00 a.m. A 75-lb. male grey wolf quietly approached Graham and chomped down on his skull.

“I had to reach behind me and jerk my head out of its mouth,” Graham said after receiving 17 staples to close the 11-centimeter laceration on his head. Graham kicked the wolf, at which point it fled.

After the attack, trappers caught and killed a wolf in the area that apparently matched the description of the grey wolf (a description that was probably along the lines of, “It was a wolf. It was grey”). The wolf that trappers killed had a deformed jaw, raising speculation that the wolf had trouble scavenging in the wild and looked for other food sources.

“There is a thought that if it was the offending animal, that it was struggling to feed itself in the normal wolf manner,” said Tom Provost, regional manager of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ enforcement division. “It would have really struggled with capturing and killing prey.”

The University of Minnesota will perform a necropsy on the wolf carcass to see if it’s rabid, and they’ll also perform a DNA test to confirm it’s the one that attacked Graham. Graham has been given a series of rabies shots which is almost 100 percent effective in treating the virus, according to Medical Daily.

Despite what The Onion might have you believe, wolf attacks are exceedingly rare. In 2010, a fatal wolf attack in Alaska marked only the second documented case ever of a wolf killing someone in the wild. There are some 77,000 wolves in North America. The first-ever confirmed case of fatal wolf attack in the wild in North America occurred in 2005, when Kenton Carnegie was attacked by a pack of wolves in Saskatchewan, Canada.

In 2006, the San Francisco Chronicle found evidence of only 27 non-fatal wolf attacks on humans in North America. Most of those cases involved rabid wolves, which are themselves exceedingly rare, according to the Chronicle.

Wild wolves generally steer clear of humans, and it’s generally when humans try to go near wolves that trouble erupts. Wolves that have become habituated to humans, like a released captive wolf or a wolf-dog hybrid, are more likely to go near humans, according to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The agency says that wild wolves “generally have some place to be and something to do.” Apparently a wolf’s social calendar fills up quickly.

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