TOP SECRET ANIMAL ATTACK FILES
forwarded by AAF Correspondent in Alaska
6-year-old near Yakutat
by KAREN AHO Daily News reporter
Thursday, April 27, 2000
In what may be the first report of a wolf attacking a human in Alaska, a radio-collared wolf on Wednesday repeatedly bit a 6-year-old boy playing in a grove of alders at a logging camp northwest of Yakutat, Alaska State Troopers said.
The boy had tears on his back and puncture wounds, but he was not seriously injured, troopers said.
The wolf, an adult male that returned to the area shortly afterward and was shot, did not have any obvious signs of injury or trauma that would immediately explain aggressive behavior, troopers said. The wolf will be tested for rabies.
"This is exceedingly rare, and I don't know of any other cases like this, in Alaska," said Matt Robus, former Junea-area biologist and now deputy director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.
The wolf's carcass was flown to Yakutat, where, in accordance with routine Fish and Wildlife Protection policy, the responding trooper burned its body.
The state Department of Fish and Game was to send the wolf's head to Fairbanks for a rabies test at the University of Alaska Fairbanks virology lab. If it is disease-free, state wildlife biologist Mark McNay will examine it further, although he's not sure what he'll determine from the head.
"There's not going to be a whole lot we can say about the animal. I expect what I'll see is the skull of a fairly normal wolf," McNay said. "I'd be surprised if the skull's going to tell us much."
According to troopers, the boy was with a 9-year-old friend and a dog Wednesday morning cutting alders and playing at a logging camp at Icy Bay when the wolf appeared. Startled, the boys began to run, said Fish and Wildlife Protection trooper Marc Cloward, who interviewed the boy in a Yakutat clinic.
"At that point, the wolf knocked him down, drug him down," Cloward said.
The 6-year-old was bitten three times, once in the lower back and twice in the buttocks. All were puncture wounds, with some tears on the lower back.
A camp carpenter ran out and threw rocks at the wolf, which let go of the boy, Cloward said.
About 10 minutes later, the wolf reappeared and was shot. The wolf's body was put in a bag. Both it and the boy were flown to Yakutat on an air taxi.
Cloward and two state fisheries biologists examined the wolf in Yakutat. They said it appeared to be an average size wolf and weighed about 75 pounds.
It had a radio collar, but it was unknown Wednesday which agency had put it on. Troopers said the collar was tight and that hair was missing from the wolf's neck. McNay said it's common for collars to affect hair growth on an animal's neck but that collars have never been known to affect an animal's behavior.
The boy was treated at the Yakutat clinic, where he received seven stitches and five surgical closure staples, troopers said.
Gov. Tony Knowles on Wednesday contacted the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Fish and Game to request a complete investigation.
"These types of incidents are extremely rare," the governor's spokesman, Bob King, said. "He just wants to follow through on this."
McNay said he knew of no documented reports of healthy wolves killing people in North America. He couldn't recall any reports of wolves attacking humans in Alaska.
History has recorded fatal wolf attacks in Europe and in India. In most cases, those wolves had become accustomed to humans.
Rabies would be the most likely explanation for aggressive behavior. According to the March 29 Alaska epidemiology bulletin, rabies is present in foxes in Western and Northwest Alaska, not Southcentral or Southeast.
However, wolves can range a great distance, McNay said.