A 16-year-old boy was injured in an apparent wolf bite early Saturday morning, Aug. 24, near the lakeshore of the West Winnie Campground on Lake Winnibigoshish in north-central Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The boy sustained multiple puncture wounds and a laceration to his head of about 11 centimeters long. The wolf ran into the woods after the boy kicked it.
After receiving local first-aid, the boy was transported to a hospital in Bemidji. The wound required multiple staples to close, but was not life-threatening.
Officers from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, U.S. Forest Service and the DNR collected reports from the boy and the boy’s father, as well as others at the camp.
Statements from other campers indicated there were other incidents at the U.S. Forest Service campground where an animal bit through tents, one resulting in the puncturing of an air mattress. Another camper indicated that he witnessed a wolf near his campsite with coloration and markings matching the description of the animal involved in the attack on the boy.
“This is an extremely rare incident and not normal wolf behavior,” said Tom Provost, regional manager of the DNR’s Enforcement Division. “Because wolf bites or attacks on humans are so rare, they are poorly understood. These rare incidents have usually involved food-habituated wolves and have led to minor injuries, but no fatalities.”
Before this incident, a serious injury or fatal attack on a human had never been documented in Minnesota. There have been two wolf attack fatalities in North America in the last decade. One was in northern Canada and another was in Alaska.
Enforcement officers from the U.S. Forest Service, Leech Lake and the DNR briefly located the animal matching the description in the wooded area adjacent to the campground, but were unable to immediately kill it. U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services was called for assistance in locating and capturing the wolf.
On early Monday morning, an average-sized male wolf of about 75 pounds, matching the description of the wolf in the attack, was trapped and killed in the campground.
The wolf is being taken to the University of Minnesota veterinary diagnostic lab to be tested for rabies. Also, the lab will collect samples for DNA analyses and complete a thorough medical examination to determine the health of the animal.
Traps will be left in place for one more night to be sure another wolf is not present in the area. The Forest Service has closed the campground until further notice.
Wolf safety tips
Always be alert in the outdoors. Wild animals biting or attacking humans is a rare occurrence but people should be aware of the possibility and know how to react.
Animals are attracted to campgrounds due to food/cooking smells. It is important not to feed wild animals.
Don’t make homes or camps attractive to wild animals:
- Keep a clean camp; don’t dispose of food by dumping into the campfire.
- Don’t leave unwashed cooking utensils around your camp.
- Don’t leave garbage unsecured.
- Don’t cook food near your tent or sleeping area.
- Don’t allow pets to freely roam away from your home or camp.
- Don’t leave pet food or other food attractants out near your home or camp.
- Don’t bury garbage, pack it out.
In the rare event that you do have an encounter with an aggressive wolf:
- Don’t run, but act aggressively, stepping toward the wolf and yelling or clapping your hands if it tries to approach.
- Do not turn your back toward an aggressive wolf, but continue to stare directly at it. If you are with a companion and more than one wolf is present place yourselves back to back and slowly move away from the wolves.
- Retreat slowly while facing the wolf and act aggressively.
- Stand your ground if a wolf attacks and fight with any means possible (use sticks, rocks, ski poles, fishing rods or whatever you can find).
- Use air horns or other noise makers.
- Use bear spray or firearms if necessary.