I made a brief note of this earlier, but the Missoulian did a full story on it.

The Ninemile Wolf Pack goes way back to 1990, well before the wolf reintroduction. This has happened before there. Of course, as time goes by people forget. Most years the Ninemile Pack kills a few livestock or pets. Every once and a while the government then kills a few of the pack.

Fortunately (from my view, anyway), NW Montana wolves are still classified as endangered and are not managed under the once-protective, now not-so-good 10j rule for the reintroduced wolves and their offspring.

Wolves attack dogs because they see (or maybe I should say “smell” dogs) as territory-trespassing wolves.

If a person is outside in the woods with a dog and he/she sees wolves following, they are interested in the dog, not them.

Wolf kills a yellow Labrador in the Ninemile Valley. By Kim Briggeman. Missoulian.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

50 Responses to Wolf kills Labrador in Ninemile [Valley]

  1. avatar Monte says:

    I’ll be that eventually a wolf or wolves will kill a person in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming. Most wolf attacks have been caused by habituation, but not all. I am not an anti-wolf person, but painting wolves as harmless to people is dangerous. Authorities, instead of always brushing the issue off, should inform people that wolves are dangerous predators and should be treated with caution, much like bears. This is just realistic. The unrealistic picture many have painted of the cute, cuddly wolf encourages people to take chances they shouldn’t.

  2. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    From a great article by Gail Binkley, found here: http://www.hcn.org/servlets/hcn.Article?article_id=16166

    “According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 1997 and 1998, at least 27 people in the United States were killed by dogs, and a few more people died while being chased by dogs. The CDC also found that dogs bite more than 4.7 million people annually, 1 million of whom seek medical treatment. The estimated medical costs ensuing from these bites exceed $164 million a year.

    Can you imagine the outrage if cougars, wolves, or bears were wreaking such havoc on the human population? There is little hue and cry, however, over the dog-bite epidemic.

    Nor is there much of an outcry over domestic dogs preying on livestock. Wolf foes fume over every calf or sheep slain by wild predators, but the same folks don’t become hysterical over killings by dogs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wolves account for under two-hundredths of 1 percent of all cattle deaths, while domestic dogs are second only to coyotes in the amount of livestock they kill. Where are the calls for aerial gunning of stray pets?”

    Aerial gunning of stray pets? GETS MY VOTE…!

  3. avatar John d'Archambaud says:

    Now what I don’t get with all this is the fact that wolves are being killed for what comes naturally to them. Although it is a sad fact that sometimes they do kill livestock ad pets, to think that by killing the animal/s will change anything is folly by any means. I do not agree with the stereotype of pro-wolf people thinking wolves are ‘cute and cuddly’, but neither do I think that people should be at the opposite end of the spectrum either. I do not believe that wolves are any serious threat to human beings, personally I wouldn’t mind camping in a wolf area and would follow common sense when in those areas. Mr. Bray has a point with the amount of dog attacks vs wolf attacks. With wolves there isn’t really much to be concerned about if you just use your head around them. Dogs should be kept close when in wolf country, it should be obvious to understand why if the owner considers themselves a good pet owner.

  4. avatar JEFF E says:

    while a comparison of dog aggression and wolf aggression is valid on one level it is not on others. i.e. the sheer numbers of dogs compared to wolves, the % of dogs in close physical proximity to humans 24/7, and the fact that breeds of dogs are specifically trained for aggression coupled with little or no training.

  5. avatar elkhunter says:

    John, on YOUTUBE you constantly point to the many “FACTS and PROOF” that wolves can and have raised infant human beings. Yet here you state that you dont fall under the stereotype that wolves are “cute and cuddly”? I am confused.
    I agree with Jeff E, thats a very hard comparison to make. Millions and millions of dogs, and couple thousand wolves.
    Elkhunter aka Joshsuth

  6. avatar Jay says:

    If I had to rank things I worry about when out in the woods, I’d say bees, lightning, and falling rocks or trees would round out the top…right down at the very bottom is wolves, bears, and cougars. The fact is, the odds of getting attacked by even a ferocious, evil, vicious grizzly bear (I’m sure everyone senses the sarcasm) is so low it’s not even something to worry about. Worry about the lunatic with the gun at the trailhead, not the wolf or cougar out in the woods.

  7. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    EXCUSE ME, Jeff E?

    You can rationalize about numbers of dogs compared to wolves, etc., but the ***BOTTOM LINE*** is: (according to the Centers for Disease Control) in 1997 and 1998, at least 27 people in the United States were killed by dogs, and a few more people died while being chased by dogs. The CDC also found that dogs bite more than 4.7 million people annually, 1 million of whom seek medical treatment.

    It is my understanding that in America, dogs kill about 12 humans a year, on average. I also understand (I can get the link for you from Centers for Disease Control) that on average, about 40 children go BLIND every year because of roundworms, found in dog feces, that destroys the optic nerve.

    If you have facts that wolves are nearly as destructive to HUMANS, please present your facts and their source.

  8. avatar JEFF E says:

    Mack,
    apparently you feel you are being challenged; you are not. read my post again slowly, think it through, and try again.
    (as an addendum have you read Barry Lopez’s “Of Wolves and Men” ?)

  9. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    Jeff, I do not feel I am “being challenged,” thank you very much. I need no instructions about how to read your post, thank you very much.

    Anyone who believes that wolves are more harmful than dogs to humans is mistaken. Those are the facts.

    I have not read “Of Wolves and Men.” I am very far behind in my reading. What’s the story?

  10. avatar JEFF E says:

    Mack,
    If 99%+ of any given time frame humans and mosquitoes did not cross paths anywhere what would be the incidence of mosquito bites be?

  11. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    Playing with numbers, eh, Jeff?

    If, during the 1% of time that humans and mosquitoes did cross paths and 100% of humans were bitten, the incidence of bites would be 100%.

    Any more inane numbers games you want to play?

  12. avatar JEFF E says:

    but it would not be 100% of the humans. It would only be 1% of the the humans.
    point is, which seems to not be grasped, is that the overall % of close proximity contact is a dominant factor on % of negative or aggressive encounters.
    yes there are extenuating and mitigating factors
    (am I wearing mosquito repellent. Am i walking my female dog while she is in season in the early spring in known wolf territory and her scent all over me because we have been romping around. Am i a bow hunter drenched in cow elk estrus and wearing scent blocking camouflage clothing?)
    Mack why are you so argumentative and defensive?
    whats your point?

  13. avatar Jay says:

    You’re both right: Jeff is correct that level of interaction between humans and domestic dogs is exponentially higher than humans and wolves, so you’re comparing apples to oranges. It’s like saying polar bears aren’t dangerous to American citizens, not because bears aren’t dangerous, but because there’s very little direct interectaction, unless you’re in Northern Alaska. Mack is correct in the fact that wolves aren’t dangerous. There is enough human interaction between people and wolves (consider the number of hunters running around in the woods of Idaho in any given year) that if wolves wanted to attack a person, there has been ample opportunity. It just doesn’t happen…wolves, for some reason, are hardwired to avoid people (and yes, there will be exceptions to this rule…they’re wild animals, after all).

  14. avatar JEFF E says:

    thank you Jay. (and it is the exception that proves the rule. or so the old professor used to say.)

  15. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    Jeff, you are totally incorrect, are trying to cheat and I’m calling you on it. If 100% of humans were bitten, well, by golly, 100% of humans were bitten, making the incidence 100%. I hope you’re not a statistician.

    Bottom line is anyone who believes that wolves are more harmful than dogs to humans is mistaken. Jeff, do you believe wolves are more harmful than dogs to humans? Note that this is a *yes* or *no* question (we’ll see if he answers directly – I doubt he will).

    You stated I am “argumentative and defensive.” That’s your opinion, and you’re welcome to it.

    Personally, I enjoy shooting down BS.

  16. avatar JEFF E says:

    Mack,
    You are pathetic.

  17. Please refer to the first paragraph of my post under bluetongue.

  18. avatar SmokyMtMan says:

    Personally, I fear no animal in North America, not a single one. Not the wolf, not dogs, not bees, not snakes, not bears, not rats, not insects, NONE of them. Respect them? Of course.

    How irrational to fear animals, aren’t we made of sterner stuff? Sure, animals posses the potential to kill/harm humans. So do bacteria, weather, cars, forks, slips and falls, falling airplane parts, air pollution, chemicals in ground water, choking on food, electricity, just about everything we can think of kills/harms people on a daily basis. So what?

    Animal danger really ranks at the bottom of the list of potentially harmful things we face every day, how sad it is that some of you suffer through life frightened of animals! You have my sympathy, but not understanding. Seems quite weak and depressing to me that some of you see animals through a prism of fear.

  19. avatar elkhunter says:

    Smoky, I think you misunderstood what they were talking about, they are not AFRAID of a wild animal. I personally would be afraid of a Grizz if he was bearing down on me. You are alot bigger man than me if you would not be afraid!
    Elkhunter

  20. avatar Layton says:

    Jeffy,

    Ain’t it terrible??

    The one time that I AGREE with you about something and people are jumping all over you — are you sure you don’t want to change your stance?? 8^)

    Layton

  21. Got an interesting phone call from a friend travelling in Atlanta— Televised advertisment wanting folks to “come to the west and hunt wolves.” Unfortunately this person didn’t remember if it stated from who or where it’s from.
    I thought this free-for-all wolf slaughter if approved would be carried out by the ”locals”. Evidently someone is looking to profit from easterners wanting to come to the great west a bag a big bad wolf. I do not know if the eastern half of the states are even familiar with the wolf issues. {i have been out here 18 years}.
    I am going to do some searching to find out more.
    Has anyone else heard about those advertisments????

  22. avatar Jay says:

    The ad must’ve been for Canada or Alaska since there’s no legal wolf hunting in the lower 48 as of yet.

  23. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    d. Bailey Hill said her friend said “come to the west and hunt wolves.” There was no mention of Canada or Alaska. d. Bailey Hill, I’d be interested in more details and specifics, next time ‘ya talk to your friend, i.e., station he was watching, etc.

    Thanks. 🙂

  24. avatar Jay says:

    I understand what she said Mack, but thank for repeating. Maybe I need to repeat myself–there’s no legal hunting of wolves in the lower 48, leaving Alaska or Canada as the only areas in the west for “easterners wanting to come to the great west a bag a big bad wolf”.

  25. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    Jay, I am more than aware there’s no legal hunting, for the public, anyway :), of wolves in the lower 48. What I was trying to get at is that if someone or some entity advertised “come to the west and hunt wolves,” meaning Idaho, Montana or Wyoming, I would be very interested to learn the details.

  26. avatar Jay says:

    Gotcha.
    I think the most likely explanation is the person misheard the ad, or didn’t hear the part about it being an outfitter in BC or Alberta, or somewhere like that. Otherwise, you’d have to be severely mentally handicapped to advertise illegal wolf hunts in the states.

  27. To clarify– I was refering to illegal hunting, perhaps a big ranch who has the dollars for such an advertisement. And yes there are people out there who are stupid enough to advertise. Neither Canada or Alaska was mentioned nor any hunting outfitter. No e-mail address either. The ad showed , “call or write” for info, to a US phone number or address. My friend was working at the time and didn’t write down the info…… In the mean time i will try to get more details.

  28. avatar Jay says:

    Be sure to pass on the information to the appropriate enforcement agencies (both USFWS and the state(s) in question)…I’m sure they’d be happy to follow up on it.

  29. avatar JB says:

    Mack, Jeff– This is worth getting right.

    Here’s a different example.

    Every year several people in the U.S. are killed (either in car accidents or trampled to death) by white-tailed deer. For arguments sake, let’s say the average is 30. There are roughly 30,000,000 white-tailed deer in the U.S. The incidence of deer-caused human mortality would be 30; your odds of being killed by a deer would be 30 / 300 million (about 1 in ten million). Now, let’s say there are roughly 15,000 wolves in the U.S. and let’s say 1 person is killed). Incidence of wolf-caused mortality (1) is less than deer (30) and odds of being killed are less (1 in 300 million).

    Now to Jeff’s point–while there’s no question that deer are more dangerous from a population standpoint (30 human deaths as opposed to 1) you need to account for the fact that deer are quite numerous while wolves are quite rare. You should also account for the fact that deer live in relatively populated areas, while wolves do not, thus people have much higher rates of encounters with deer than wolves. Jeff’s point, *I think* is that when you cannot simply say that dogs are more dangerous than wolves–in fact, that claim seems ludicrous. Dogs kill more people because (1) they DRAMATICALLY outnumber wolves, (2) they live in close contact with people, all of which means (3) there are far more dog-human encounters than wolf-dog encounters. As wolf-human encounters/interactions rise, there will be some assoicated deaths.

  30. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    JB, thanks for your efforts.

    I understand what you’re saying about the odds of being killed by a dog or wolf or white-tailed deer. I’m not stupid, I just look that way…! However, odds are not always what they seem… The odds of a person living in Manhattan (who never leaves Manhattan) of being killed by a deer are zero. The odds of someone who lives in densely populated white-tail country who spends many miles behind the wheel of a vehicle are greater than your theoretical odds of 1 in ten million. Obviously , the sample is important.

    You said “…you cannot simply say that dogs are more dangerous than wolves…”

    JB, I *never said* dogs are more dangerous than wolves. I did say “Anyone who believes that wolves are more *harmful* than dogs to humans is mistaken.” Big difference, eh?

    Plain English: if, on average, dogs kill 12 humans a year and wolves kill 0 a year, it can be seems that dogs *are more harmful* to humans than wolves. Because dogs bite more than 4.7 million people annually, 1 million of whom seek medical treatment, and wolves bite 0 a year, it can be seen that dogs *are more harmful* to humans than wolves. Because the estimated medical costs ensuing from these dog bites exceed $164 million a year, it can be seen that dogs *are more harmful* to humans than wolves (bite you in your ass AND your wallet, or rather your insurance company’s funds).

    I don’t think anyone can argue that wolves are more harmful to humans than dogs. If anyone can, I’d sure like to hear it.

    And I totally disagree with your reasoning about *why* dogs kill more people than wolves: dogs outnumber wolves, they live in close contact with people and there are more dog-human encounters. I think you’re describing the situations as opposed decribing the core reason(s). I think dogs kill more people than wolves because wolves are WILD and fearful of humans while dogs are domesticated *to a degree* while retaining that KILLER instinct which occasionally surfaces, killing about a dozen humans a year, in America, on average.

    While thinking about it, I AM going to say that, in my opinion, dogs ARE more dangerous than wolves. How’s THAT for sticking the ‘ole neck out? I say this because I’ve had many dogs aggressively approach me, I’ve been attacked by more than one and I’ve had a few dogs bite without warning . I’ve been around wolves quite a bit and I’ve NEVER had a wolf or wolves aggressively approach or bite me. Sunday of last week, I was hiking the flats of Grand Teton National Park, was downwind of a stand of trees and as I approached, BAM – 5 wolves dispersed. They went in different directions and it was only until they put about 1/5 mile between us that they wanted to observe me. If they were dogs instead of wolves, they probably would have “defended their territory” and perhaps barked and/or aggressively approached me and/or attacked me.

    *All* our domestic dogs stem from the Asian wolf as of about 10,000 years ago. Talk about genetic manipulation – we’ve done it – take those nippy, yippy, little chihuahuas for example…

  31. avatar JB says:

    Some good points Mack. In fact, I can’t find too much to disagree with…to be clear, I definitely agree with your logic about which animal is more harmful–I don’t think that can be disputed. What I’m getting at is a related question: which animal (wolf or dog) is more dangerous. Since we seem to be nitpicking a bit, I’ll define dangerous as, all things being equal, the animal that poses a greater risk to humans on an encounter by encounter basis. Here I will definitely go with wolves. I think your reasoning makes my point:

    “…dogs kill more people than wolves because wolves are WILD and fearful of humans while dogs are domesticated *to a degree* while retaining that KILLER instinct which occasionally surfaces….”

    Yes! Exactly. Nearly all dogs are domesticated (i.e. habituated) to human presence and therefore are more “willing” to attack people. WILD wolves (in general) are fearful of humans because the have not been habituated. However, I have seen many captive-raised wolves that ARE habituated to humans and, for the most part, I would not trust them as far as I could throw them (not far, as I’m a little fella). Let’s put things in lawyerly terms: wolves have motive but lack opportunity, while dogs generally have ample quantities of both.

    Now I will go out on a limb: if you conducted a controlled study in which you gave a group of wild wolves and domestic dogs the same amount of exposure to humans, I would predict that you would have more wolf attacks then dog attacks–every time. Note, I’m just talking about behavior! Clearly, on average, wolves are more physically dangerous to people then dogs (larger size, skull, stronger lbs/square inch bite). If anyone cares to dispute, I’d love to hear it.

    Your points are well taken. Dogs kill and injure more people than wolves. This is fact. The point is, although the dispute may be a bit academic, which animal is more dangerous–that is, which animal is more likely to attack and injure a human being under similar conditions. I believe the answer is the wolf.

  32. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    Wadda ‘ya know, an intelligent debate/discussion. Thanks, JB…!

    “…I’ll define dangerous as, all things being equal, the animal that poses a greater risk to humans on an encounter by encounter basis.” I’ll hedge my bets by saying I’m not totally committed, but I’ll tentatively agree. HA…!

    Webster’s definition of dangerous: able or likely to inflict injury or harm

    I am of the opinion that obviously, both wolves and dogs are able to inflict injury or harm, but that dogs are more likely than wolves to do so.

    You said, regarding attacking humans, “…wolves have motive but lack opportunity, while dogs generally have ample quantities of both.” JB, this is incorrect. Wolves do NOT have a motive to attack humans – humans are simply not on their menu/prey list. They do have the opportunity to do so – it’s not a tremendous opportunity, but it’s there. The dog’s motives to attack are the usual: defending territory, defending it’s master, etc.; in other words, real or perceived threats. And, if course, especially because so many idiots let their dogs run loose and form PACKS, they have no shortage of opportunity, not to mention sleeping in the kid’s bed.

    “…If you conducted a controlled study in which you gave a group of wild wolves and domestic dogs the same amount of exposure to humans, I would predict that you would have more wolf attacks then dog attacks–every time.”

    I cannot imagine a controlled study in which a group of wild wolves and domestic dogs could be given the same amount of exposure to humans in any meaningful, scientific setting. Can you describe one? In your theoretical study, the wolf could not be confined or other wise manipulated into an environment foreign to it and it could not be manipulated into unnatural behavior. Isolate two tracts of 1,000 sq. miles each. Drop 25 wolves into one and 25 domesticated dogs into the other. Also drop 5 humans into each tract. Wolves discover humans – wolves split. Dogs discover humans – dogs run up, begging for a handout. At some point, after X years, a dog is going to attack and/or bite a human. I doubt the wolves would – they don’t just don’t care for our company.

    “…which animal is more dangerous–that is, which animal is more likely to attack and injure a human being under similar conditions. I believe the answer is the wolf..”

    With the caveats mentioned above, I disagree. I believe the answer is the dog.

  33. Dogs, if running loose, or being abuse, whether for fighting, status or just a sick persons mind, always go back to wild behavior. I doubt that a dog is going to revert back to domesticity automatically{he,he!}. But with training yes. However, that dog is probably always going to have a “hot button” that will trigger wild behavior. Regardless of population ratios, locations, and experience, i have to agree that the dog is far more dangerous.
    A complecating facter is that of the “status dog”. I am sure most of us remember over the years the type of dog has changed. German shepard, Doberman, Rottweiller, Mastiff, and Pitbull. It is my opinion that the deciding facter is the human element. There is a lot of people abusing dogs to bring out the wildness for various reasons. It’s cool, people will fear me, I can make a lot of money, etc. I don’t know of any folks who hang out in the woods doing these things to wolves to make them more wild. {big chuckle!}

  34. avatar JB says:

    “Wolves do NOT have a motive to attack humans – humans are simply not on their menu/prey list. They do have the opportunity to do so – it’s not a tremendous opportunity, but it’s there. The dog’s motives to attack are the usual: defending territory, defending it’s master…”

    Ok, here’s where we disagree. Wolves and dogs share common motivations and thus common “motives” for attacking. In fact, you’ve specified some of them: defending territory, defending pups, food. I agree, humans are not generally on the prey list, but that has to do more with opportunity than motive.

    Now, to say that wolves and dogs share equal opportunity to attack people is a totally inaccuracy. Most dogs live with people 24/7–most wolves live in areas where there are few people and only encounter them at a distance. Dogs have more opportunity to harm human beings…period.

    Yes, this is in part due to the fact that wolves tend to avoid people. In fact, this is natural behavior for most adult wild animals, but canids in general are especially neophobic. Because wild wolves are generally not exposed to people when they are young, they tend to be fearful and avoid contact with people as they age. They still have the motives (protection, food) but fear is a stronger motivational force. However, fear is reduced with contact (habituation)–both for wolves and dogs. My contention is, given equal access and exposure to human beings, wolves are by far more dangerous. You asked if I can imagine a situation where the controlled experiment I suggested could be conducted. Yes! It is being conducted in many cases by people that run rescue facilities for wolves or decide to “adopt” wolves as pets. In such cases wolves become habituated to people and can become extremely aggressive. If you’d like names of experts who can attest to this, I’d be happy to provide them (off of the blog section).

    It boils down to this: for 10,000 years we’ve artificially selected dogs for their compatibility with human beings while natural selection has run its course on wolves, shaping them into an efficient and aggressive predator. The relatively few number of wolf attacks (compared with dog attacks) is a direct function of lack of opportunity rather than any innate fear of human beings.

  35. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    “Ok, here’s where we disagree. Wolves and dogs share common motivations and thus common “motives” for attacking. In fact, you’ve specified some of them: defending territory, defending pups, food. I agree, humans are not generally on the prey list, but that has to do more with opportunity than motive.”

    It’s inaccurate to say, regarding wolves “…humans are not generally on the prey list, but that has to do more with opportunity than motive.” Show me where humans constitute even a small percentage of wolve’s prey. What evidence do you have that wolves are motivated to attack humans? Lay it out.

    Wolves and dogs do NOT share common motivations (they share some but not all) – to name one: wolves have no motivation to defend their human masters, as they have none. As as far as defending food – I’ve never tried to run wolves off an elk kill (and never would), but it would be interesting to learn if it were possible – and if it were possible AND statistically meaningful, could we say that wolves don’t defend their food from humans? It’s conceivable.

    “Now, to say that wolves and dogs share equal opportunity to attack people is a totally inaccuracy.” I never said that. Show me where I said that. You can’t. I said, regarding wolve’s opportunity to attack people “They do have the opportunity to do so – it’s not a tremendous opportunity, but it’s there.” Play fair, JB…!

    Your description of a controlled experiment does not conform to what I recommended: “the wolf could not be confined or other wise manipulated into an environment foreign to it and it could not be manipulated into unnatural behavior.” Rescue facilities for wolves don’t qualify. And what idiot would take a wolf for a pet?

    Actually, thinking about it, perhaps we DO have an experiment that conforms to what I recommended above: Yellowstone National Park. Call ’em up. Ask how many wolves have attacked humans since the reintroduction (January of 95, I believe), and ask how many dogs have attacked visitors since then. 🙂 My money says “Wolves, ZERO; dogs, X – meaning 1 or more. Yeah, I know – you’ll go back to the frequency of contact thing. And that’s valid. But the bottom line, IF dogs have attacked 1 or more humans in Yellowstone since the reintroduction of wolves, is that, in Yellowstone, dogs are definately more harmful to humans than wolves, and more dangerous (in my opinion, I know you disagree) to humans than wolves.

    “The relatively few number of wolf attacks (compared with dog attacks) is a direct function of lack of opportunity rather than any innate fear of human beings.”

    I disagree entirely.

    Excuse me, but I need to get back to work. 🙂

  36. avatar JB says:

    (1) OK, the example you requested: Wolves scavenged human carcasses during the bubonic plague of the 14th century in Europe and ultimately attacks resulted.

    Familiarity >> lack of fear >> attack

    (2) When I refer to “motives” or “motivation” I’m not referring to an internal deliberative state–I’m referring to the fullfilling basic survival needs (wolves need to eat and we’re made of meat; wolves defend their offspring/pack mates and we’re big enough to be a threat). These two at least constititute a motivation to attack.

    (2b) I would not say that dogs are not motivated to “defend their human masters.” Rather, I would say that dogs can be motivated to defend their pack mates–in some cases, humans are the leaders (alphas, if you want to adopt that language) of their packs. Thus, wolves and dogs do share this motivation. 🙂

    (3) To be fair, you did not say that wolves and dogs had equal opportunity to attack.

    (4) I reject the confines of your experiment. I do not know what it means when you say that wolves “…could not be confined or other wise manipulated into an environment foreign to it and it could not be manipulated into unnatural behavior.”

    We confine wolves. We manipulate wolves and their environment. In fact, you could argue that this is how wolves become dogs.

    I also reject the notion that behavior is “unnatural.” Behavior can be common or rare, it can be adaptive or unadaptive, it cannot be unnatural.

    (5) Yellowstone is a flawed example because (a) the wolves there are under near constant survelance (b) the dogs in your example were (presumably) raised by humans and thus were both habituated to humans (lack of fear) and have constant access (opportunity).

    “IF dogs have attacked 1 or more humans in Yellowstone since the reintroduction of wolves, is that, in Yellowstone, dogs are definately more harmful to humans than wolves, and more dangerous (in my opinion, I know you disagree) to humans than wolves.”

    I do disagree. You’re confusing “harmful” with “dangerous”. Dogs are more harmful to humans in the U.S.–undisputed. My argument is that, all things equal, A WOLF (not wolves, plural) is more dangerous to a person than a dog.

    Shorthand:
    Increased non-negative exposure to human beings leads to lack of fear and increased opportunities for attack–in both dogs and wolves. Given the same exposure, the wolf is the more dangerous of the two.

    Now I need to get back to work…and get a life while I’m at it.

  37. avatar JEFF E says:

    JB,
    In large part you are correct on what my point is. I suppose I could expand that a little.

    When one compares the possibility of aggression on humans of a wolf and dog for the most part it is an apples or oranges compression. About the only really valid statement would be that the chance of being attacked by a dog is far, far greater. So saying that dogs on the whole are more dangerous than wolves to humans is a “duh” statement, it hardly merits a response.
    However if we take the wolves that have become habituated to humans or have learned that humans are a food source then the comparison becomes somewhat more valid in my opinion. Such incidents of aggression have been reported several times from such places a Algonquin park in Canada and on the islands off of British Colombia and Canada.
    Then to maybe extrapolate a little, if you could remove those dogs from the equation that are specifically bread for aggressive tendency, which account for up to 60% of all aggressive and/or attacks, I would think that the comparison may be even more valid.
    Finally, if one tallied all of the individual human/ dog encounters that happen, over say five years, in the United States and Canada, and derived the percentage of aggressive behavior/and or attacks from that number, and compared that with the percentage of the same by wolves that have become habituated, I wonder how that would match up.

  38. avatar Linda Hunter says:

    I get the impression reading all these posts that there aren’t supposed to be dangerous animals other than humans. What’s up with that?? Life would be certainly boring in the wilds if every animal out there would roll over and show us their bellies on sight wouldn’t it?

  39. avatar JB says:

    Jeff,

    I agree, these are really interesting questions; although I think the argument with Mack is becoming a bit academic (no offense, Mack–I like academic arguments).

    I should say my opinion(s) are based on experiences with captive wolves (and conversations with people who have raised wolves) that have become habituated to human beings. I should also point out that I am very much pro-wolf–at least in the sense that I support reintroduction efforts. I don’t have some anti-wolf agenda, I just think we need to stop “mystifying” wolves. They are wild critters, plain and simple. For centuries people who feared them made them out to be devils, now people are making them out to be some kind of angelic animal. We need to stop treating wolves as symbols and start treating them as just another wild animal, IMO.

    JB

  40. avatar JEFF E says:

    JB
    I too am 100% pro-wolf. ask elky or Layton. (as I scratch the head of Apollo, my c.l. arctos companion. how does anyone think we came to have dogs in the first place.) I also agree wolves are just another animal in the animal kingdom, neither better or worse than any other. Something funny here. My son-in law is from Zimbabwe and I was telling him how of all the animals there are the hyena gives me the most pause. he looked at me like I was crazy and said that is probably the least, one has to fear. However he will not come within 50 yards of Apollo. curious that.

  41. avatar Jay says:

    I’m curious Jeff…as a pro-wolf person, don’t you feel a bit guilty keeping one in captivity? They might deal with confinement a bit better than, say, a cougar or bobcat, but I’ve never understood the need to keep wildlife as pets. In my opinion, they belong out there on the tundra or in the woods, not in a backyard.

  42. avatar JEFF E says:

    Jay,
    I have been involved with wolves, first studying and then, going live, for over thirty years. the first that I had one on one was a female that had been taken out of the den in Alaska and brought to the states when six months old. she was raised in the Portland area and eventually came to southeast Idaho in the mid seventies. Her owners(her third set)(they thought it would be cool to have a wolf) had lived rurally in Oregon and did not realize that wolves eliminate the competition(neighborhood dogs) so they asked if I would keep her until the contract job they were working was over. (the malt plant in Pocatello). during that time I got to learn first hand about wolf behavior to a greater extent than just reading about it.(yes it is somewhat skewed because of circumstances) Because I too feel that wolves are better off in the wild, but reality is otherwise, I became involved in taking on “problem” animals. Make no mistake, a wolf is not a dog and the interaction is worlds apart. I used to think that there was really no reason that one could not do one or the other but if one does not know how to “communicate” with a wolf then, and it is way more than whether they have a raised tail or a tucked tail, then please, please don’t. Anyway Apollo, which will probably be my last, is a c.l. arctos that came from Utah from another person that didn’t have a clue. He has alpha characteristics and was quite a handful for the first few years but he is now 10 and we have become comfortable with each other.

  43. avatar Jay says:

    I think that’s admirable that you’re taking on other people’s “mistakes”–that’s exactly why I hate people taking wild animals for pets. The “cool” factor is just moronic, and it’s unfair to the animal.

  44. avatar JB says:

    Jeff,

    Just curious, are you still in Idaho? If so, you might get a kick out of the inter-agency wolf conference that Defenders of Wildlife hosts each April in Pray, Montana. I’ve been three times now and always learn a ton.

    Good luck with Apollo. It’s nice to hear a successful story of a captive wolf after hearing so many tragedies.

    JB

  45. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    JB, you certainly seem like a nice enough fellow, but I must say, we’re so far apart that at some point, I suggest we hang up this discussion.

    Me: “Show me where humans constitute even a small percentage of wolve’s prey. What evidence do you have that wolves are motivated to attack humans?”

    You: “(1) OK, the example you requested: Wolves scavenged human carcasses during the bubonic plague of the 14th century in Europe and ultimately attacks resulted.”

    I don’t know that attacks resulted, but let’s assume they did. Surely we can agree that the bubonic plague was an extraordinary event? And if we can, we must reject it as an example. My question was logically reasoned/predicated on what could be considered a typical environment for both wolves and humans. I don’t think the plague was a typical environment for either species, do you? I really hope you answer this one.

    You: “(2) When I refer to “motives” or “motivation” I’m not referring to an internal deliberative state–I’m referring to the fullfilling basic survival needs (wolves need to eat and we’re made of meat; wolves defend their offspring/pack mates and we’re big enough to be a threat). These two at least constititute a motivation to attack.”

    JB, it’s not fair to change definitions in the middle of a debate. Referrals/definitions should be defined at the onset.

    Yes, wolves need to eat and yes, we’re made of meat. But I must agree with and refer you back to what you said about wolf’s fear of humans overriding their need to eat/attack us – and so it does. Dog’s fears of humans, as evidenced in thousands of incidents every year, do NOT override their motivation to attack us. If a wolf was hungry enough, s/he would eat us. If you or I were hungry enough, we’d probably turn cannibalistic on the nearest human.

    You: “(2b) I would not say that dogs are not motivated to “defend their human masters.” Rather, I would say that dogs can be motivated to defend their pack mates–in some cases, humans are the leaders (alphas, if you want to adopt that language) of their packs. Thus, wolves and dogs do share this motivation.”

    *Sigh.* Dogs are definitely motivated to defend their human masters – their human masters feed them. It’s not that dogs *can* be motivated to defend their pack mates – dogs *are* motivated to defend their pack mates – they used to be wolves, remember – they’re hard-wired to defend their pack mates. In reality, humans are not the alphas to dogs (JB, we’re not of the same species, okay?). In reality, humans are the masters/owners of dogs, but dogs PERCEIVE us to be their alphas. Wolves have no motivation to defend humans – they get their own damn food. Dogs do have motivation to defend humans – their human masters feed them. It can be seen that dogs are motivated to defend their human master/owners against other humans. In some instances, this is obviously desirable. In other instances, it results in harm to a harmless human – classic examples would be the mailman being attacked or the dog attacking a family friend who was simply wrestling or “rough-housing” with the dog’s master/owner.

    You: “(4) I reject the confines of your experiment. I do not know what it means when you say that wolves “…could not be confined or other wise manipulated into an environment foreign to it and it could not be manipulated into unnatural behavior.””

    Come on, it can’t be *that* hard to conceptualize the setting.

    You: “We confine wolves. We manipulate wolves and their environment. In fact, you could argue that this is how wolves become dogs.”

    There’s no need to argue that yes, that is how wolves became dogs. Without question, that is how wolves became dogs.

    You: “I also reject the notion that behavior is “unnatural.” Behavior can be common or rare, it can be adaptive or unadaptive, it cannot be unnatural.”

    Although I’m certainly not a biologist or scientist, I do believe that it is unnatural behavior for a bear to ride a bicycle. Considering what you said, you must therefore believe that it is natural behavior for a bear to ride a bicycle. Do you? I really hope you answer this one.

    You: “(5) Yellowstone is a flawed example because (a) the wolves there are under near constant survelance (b) the dogs in your example were (presumably) raised by humans and thus were both habituated to humans (lack of fear) and have constant access (opportunity).”

    What on earth does wolves being under (constant – I doubt it) surveillance have to do with anything? And OF COURSE the dogs that visitors would bring into Yellowstone would have been raised by humans and would be habituated and have constant access to humans. What, you think visitors to Yellowstone would bring wild dogs into the park? I have NO idea what you’re addressing here.

    Me: “But the bottom line, IF dogs have attacked 1 or more humans in Yellowstone since the reintroduction of wolves, is that, in Yellowstone, dogs are definitely more harmful to humans than wolves, and more dangerous (in my opinion, I know you disagree) to humans than wolves.”

    You: “I do disagree. You’re confusing “harmful” with “dangerous”. Dogs are more harmful to humans in the U.S.–undisputed. My argument is that, all things equal, A WOLF (not wolves, plural) is more dangerous to a person than a dog.”

    I am not confusing harmful with dangerous. I though we cleared that up earlier. Anyway, we both agree that dogs are more harmful than wolves to humans. Our debate/disagreement is which is more dangerous. And now, for reasons beyond me, you’re changing and limiting your argument to a single wolf being more dangerous to a person than a single dog.

    And, surprise, surprise, I disagree. 🙂

    I believe that, in the typical environments in which they are found, wolves are less dangerous to humans than are dogs (dogs of average size, temperament, strength, blah, blah, blah).

    For the same period of time, I would rather be on X number of acres of wilderness with a wild wolf or wolves than on the same acreage with one or more dogs at my side. Given enough time, I believe I would be more likely to attacked by a dog or dogs than the wolf or wolves. Therefore, I believe that dogs are more dangerous to humans than wolves.

    If you want to rebut, JB, that’s fine, but if you do, I suggest we find a way to terminate this discussion before it becomes something infernally eternal. 🙂

  46. avatar Jay says:

    Mack,
    you should read through this publication: http://www.lcie.org/Docs/Damage%20prevention/Linnell%20NINA%20OP%20731%20Fear%20of%20wolves%20eng.pdf

    Wolf attacks–both predatory and habituation–have been pretty well documented in Europe. I’ve spoken with one of the co-authors of this paper, and he indicated that wolves were predatory on humans in Europe, and he felt that if the level of persecution were eliminated for some time in North America, we’d see wolves becoming more bold, with occasional predatory attacks on people. It still wouldn’t be something I would worry about out in the woods…

  47. avatar JEFF E says:

    Jay,
    this has been posted from time to time. I’ll do it again. It’s pretty comprehensive.

    http://wildlife.alaska.gov/pubs/techpubs/research_pdfs/techb13_full.pdf

  48. avatar JB says:

    “…we’re so far apart that at some point, I suggest we hang up this discussion…”

    Agreed! Ha, bet you didn’t expect that? 🙂 However, you have asked me to address a couple of things, so…

    (1) I definitely agree that the plague was an extraordinary event. However, it is an event that proves my point. Predatory researchers often talk about animals forming a “search image” for a prey items before they learn to hunt them. What they mean is that the predator needs to understand that a certain type of animal is able to be consumed–they learn the scent, taste, and look of their prey. This is exactly what happened during the plague–wolves learned that humans could be food. Of course, learning to hunt humans through habituated feeding is a bit different, but there are cases of that as well (read: http://www.wolf.org/wolves/news/2005releases/123005_wolfattack.asp).

    (2)I apologize. I did a poor job of explaining what I meant by “surveillance” in the Yellowstone example (partially because this is growing tiresome). Here goes: Nearly all of the highly visible packs in Yellowstone have had animals with radio collars that are monitored by park biologists, as well as amateur naturalists (yes they carry receivers). Generally, what this means is that people know where the wolves are. If you’ve ever been to Lamar Valley (where most people see wolves in Yellowstone), you’ll know what I’m talking about. Generally, people stand around in large groups with spotting scopes looking at wolves that are a long way off. Many of these people are “wolf fanatics” and come from all over the U.S. specifically to see wolves. These people are unlikely to feed wolves (or allow anyone else to feed them), which is the major mechanism for habituation, and, at lease according to the article above, the major reason why people are attacked. So…Yellowstone is not a great example.

    (3) As for the term unnatural…

    My comments were meant to refer more to the definitional ambiguity surrounding the word “natural”. The word has been used to mean so many things that it has become meaningless. Random house has 38 different entries for the word “natural”. The first is “existing in or formed by nature”. Can you tell me something that does not either exist in or was formed by nature? (Note: This is a trick question. You first have to answer the question: what is nature? Random house: “the material world, esp. as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities.” But also “the universe, with all its phenomena.” I think you see where I’m going here?

    My general point is (and was) that attaching the adjective “natural” to a behavior does nothing to distinguish it from any other kind of behavior. What the hell does it mean to describe a behavior as “unnatural”?

    Soooo…to your example: It would certainly be uncommon behavior for a bear to ride a bicycle. It would be uncommon because bears did not evolve in the presence of bicycles and even if they had, I doubt whether riding a bicycle would’ve provided the bear with any sort of adaptive advantage. Thus, the bear has little reason (motive, motivation, whatever) to ride a bike. However, while it is also uncommon for wolves to attack people, the wolf could certainly gain an advantage from learning to hunt another prey item–especially one as numerous as human beings.

    Okay, I admit it, I’m being a bit facetious, but I hope we can still agree to disagree regarding the whole “who is more dangerous” issue?

    Cheers,
    JB

  49. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    Jay, many thanks for the link. I barely have time to skim it now, but I want to study it in the near future.

    Damn, the document will NOT allow copying (to the clipboard).

    I’ll carry over, MANUALLY, some of the highlights of the summary and, naturally, add my comments. 🙂

    “We identified three types of wolf attack, (1) attacks by rabid wolves, (2) predatory attacks where wolves appear to have regarded humans as prey and (3) defensive attacks where a wolf has bitten a person in response to being cornered or provoked.”

    We take out the rabid wolves because dogs, raccoons, and other animals attack humans if they’re rabid and we take out the defensive attacks because all canids will bite in response to being cornered or provoked.

    “The majority of attacks concern wolves with rabies.” Whoops, I though we removed those. So the majority of attacks are not in our consideration, because they are from wolves with rabies.

    There is verbiage about predatory attacks, and there is mention of an area in France where over 100 people were killed in 1764-1767. Then there is mention that the wolves were believed to be hybrids between wild wolves and large shepherd dogs. So we take those out of the equation – the debate is about which are more dangerous, wolves or dogs – we’re not including hybrids.

    There is further mention of deaths, one attributed to a wolf raised in captivity before escaping; mention of many children killed; some reports seem to be credible, a few are controversial, according to the authors.

    “We identified four factors that are associated with wolf attacks on humans: rabies (details), habituation (details), provocation (details), highly modified environments – the majority of predatory attacks (pre-20th century Europe and present day India) have occurred in very artificial environments where a number of circumstances have occurred.” Read the details for yourself, I’m tired of manually carrying over, but the details are IMPORTANT.

    We take out the rabies, provocation, highly modified environments and that leaves us with habituation.

    “A fair summary of our results would be ‘in those extremely rare cases where wolves have killed people, most attacks have been by rabid wolves, predatory attacks are aimed mainly at children, attacks in general are unusual but episodic, and humans are not part of their normal prey.’ When the frequency of wolf attacks on people is compared to that from over large carnivores (DOGS – DOGS – DOGS – ADDED BY MACK P. BRAY) or wildlife in general it is obvious that wolves are among the least dangerous species for their size and predatory potential.”

    We add dogs to the above mentioned “large carnivore” catagory because the authors have included dogs in their report.

    “The risks of being attacked by a wolf are not zero, but are clearly so low that they are virtually impossible to quantify, especially when compared to the other background risks associated with living.”

    No more manual transfering for me.

    Who volunteers to take this report and calculate *all* the deaths of humans ever attributed to wolves and to dogs? My money says that far more humans have been killed by dogs than wolves.

    Jay, see my response below to JB.

  50. avatar Mack P. Bray says:

    JB, in (1) above, you state “However, it is an event that proves my point.” I fail to understand – WHAT is your point?

    JB, here’s the fatal flaw in our groundwork:

    You: “…if you conducted a controlled study in which you gave a group of wild wolves and domestic dogs the same amount of exposure to humans, I would predict that you would have more wolf attacks then dog attacks–every time.”

    We didn’t define “exposure” – the definition of which would include time and space.

    My definition of exposure would *only* include unhabituated wolves in the wild; your definition would be more inclusive. Correct?

    You: “My contention is, given equal access and exposure to human beings, wolves are by far more dangerous.”

    We didn’t define “equal access and exposure.” Yet another flaw.

    In (2) above, again, I am completely lost. You partially described a “controlled study” – I suggest Yellowstone as the “lab”; you offered rescue facilities being run by people for wolves or for people who decide to adopt wolves as pets. Yellowstone is a FAR superior setting than a rescue facility.

    You: “These people (in Yellowstone, my clarification) are unlikely to feed wolves (or allow anyone else to feed them), which is the major mechanism for habituation, and, at lease according to the article above, the major reason why people are attacked. So…Yellowstone is not a great example.”

    Yellowstone is an EXCELLENT example of wolves living in the wild and therefore a great setting for your study.

    I have failed to clarify my thoughts and will briefly attempt to do so here: in my opinion, dogs are MORE dangerous to humans than are wolves in the wild.

    I’ll have to address your comments about the term “unnatural” some other time (whew), but in brief:

    “Thus, the bear has little reason (motive, motivation, whatever) to ride a bike.” Ah, ‘cuse me. If the bear doesn’t learn to ride and ride after it has learned, it will be abused and/or starved. Great motivation. Unnatural behavior.

    Okay, I think we’re both tired of this.

    First man to quit, wins…!

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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