Did wolf pose threat to bear hunter?

This story made some news in Montana. It was discussed briefly in this forum (no post, however). No doubt it will enter anti-wolf legends library.

Here is the standard story by the outdoors editor of the Billings Gazette. Truly a blast from the wolf past
By Mark Henckel. Billings Gazette.

Brian Peck, however, did some investigating of his own.

Peck reported:

Over the last several days, I’ve spoken to Kent Laudon (FWP Wolf Specialist) and Lee Anderson (FWP Chief Warden) regarding the wolf killed last week near Olney in “self-defense.” Here’s the latest info.:

The hunter was walking along a USFS road when the 2 wolves emerged from the brush about 15-20 yards away. The larger wolf continued across the road and up a hill. The smaller wolf – a 1-2 year old female – made a 90 degree turn toward the hunter and trotted toward him on the same side of the road he was on, until she was about 10 feet away. The hunter felt afraid for his safety and shot the wolf from the hip at that distance. The deliberate movement in his direction, rather than any other clear aggressive posture or sound from the wolf, was the only reason given by the hunter for feeling threatened.

FWP’s Anderson suggested that the wolf probably would have run off if the hunter had yelled, but state law doesn’t require that, nor does it require an attack, or more aggressive behavior by the wolf before a person can respond in self-defense. Anderson said they grilled the guy pretty good for 2 hours and checked out the scene before they decided that he acted appropriately. He also said that if the guy’s story hadn’t held up, he would have had no problem issuing a citation.

Laudon told me the female wolf was not a breeder, that no den was known to be near, and the location was between the Murphy Lake and Lazy Creek territories. They’ll be checking to see if another pack has set up shop there.

I suspect that if the hunter knew anything about wolves and how unlikely an attack was, both he and the wolf would have lived to hunt another day. I wonder if we can get 45 minutes on “Hunting in Wolf Country” inserted into the Hunter Education courses to head off similar incidents in the future. Endless Education – Endlessly Applied.





  1. Linda Hunter Avatar

    I am glad someone is looking into this more closely. When the scene was “checked out” did the tracks show the wolf approaching the guy? There is almost always some track evidence and wolves don’t have little, delicate feet.

  2. john weis Avatar
    john weis

    I am amazed at how chicken shit so many hunters can be. Why are they even out in the wilds if they are scared of their own shadow? One big shout and jump in the air would have sent the wolf down the road to the male in 3.5 seconds. But instead the guy figures he should shoot from the hip? Maybe he just needs to stay inside where he is safe from wild animals and can strike intimidating poses in front of a mirror.

  3. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    This sounds like the same crap that comes out of New Mexico. If a wolf displays a bit of curiosity then it is immediately a threat to all of civilization.

  4. Chuck Avatar

    Big bad hunter, shoot first ask questions later. If I were the DA I would prosicute this bone head.

  5. Lynne Stone Avatar
    Lynne Stone

    I’m very sorry that a young wolf was killed by a hunter that as John says, is afraid of his own shadow. The young female wolf probably had never seen a human before and had no concept that this human thing was something to be avoided.

    In order to save wolves, we need to make them afraid of humans … if you see one, yell, shoot over it (if the wolf is on public land), blast your car horn or whatever, so that it becomes wary of humans.

    This past winter, several times I saw wolves too near roads, intent during daylight on going to feed on a road-killed deer or elk. I shouted at the wolves, clapped my hands, howled and told them to scram. They left. Sometimes I walked or snowshoed and chased them farther away. Now that summer is here, every wolf I see on public land, is going to get gun shots sent in their directions. This is perfectly legal … all I have to do is say that the wolf or wolves were worrying my dog.

    If you are trying to scare wolves, make certain they can see you and hear your voice … that way they will know that it’s a human that they need to be afraid of.

  6. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Sounds like this guy took a page from our ” game commissioner/real estate salesman” Vic Workman. He’s the one that shot the grizzly “from the hip” last fall and who doesn’t believe in bear spray. That incident was also north of Kalispel.
    “FWP would have issued him a citation”….BS!! Has Montana ever prosecuted someone for killing a wolf?

  7. vicki Avatar

    I am sad that the wolf was killed. I think that the man who shot him sounds a bit short of a full deck.
    However, I don’t think anyone can guage his fear. His fear may have been, as most intellegent people would assess, irrational. But his feelings were his alone. He may have been legitimately, though unneccisarily, fearful for his safety.
    That is just testimony to the misinformation and hype surrounding wolves.
    I think what is really important is how to prevent this type of reaction in the future. That is only accomplished via education and understanding.
    Had the animal in question been a bear, I doubt the story would be carrying this much weight. But that is, in part, due to the knowledge we do have about bear attacks. (That is also lacking, but more readily available.) We have little knowledge about wolves instinctual or defensive behavior when near humans, because they are reclusive. It just doesn’t happen too often.
    We will have more interactions, and more of these type of incidents, now that the wolf population is closer to ‘civilization’. Therefore, we have got to become aware and educated about every bit of wolf behavior we can. Maybe there needs to be testing of boundaries and reactions to people in wild packs? There may be some studies already complete…I defer to the experts on that point.
    But I am neither shocked nor suprised by this news. If the man was sincere in his claims of fear, I am also not angry at him. I would hope he would become more educated as a result of this incident and realize what his reaction set in place.

  8. Linda Hunter Avatar

    John Weiss . . although it isn’t good to generalize about hunters since they are all so different, I have to tell you a story. A friend of mine and I were camping out and decided to take a walk in the dark. It was a moon bright night so we didn’t use flashlights. Before we could make it to the trailhead however, we saw a camp where there was a fire blazing. I told her we either needed to go back or walk right into that camp yelling because two big guys were huddled around the fire with rifles and hand guns on the log next to them. We chose to walk right in. Turns out they were from Portland and terrified because they had seen a cougar on the trail we were going to hike. I know this particular cougar and had no qualms hiking in his territory so my friend and I went on without our lights up the trail. When we got to the ridge we looked back at the camp and saw the two guys huddled by the fire and shinning flashlights out into the dark. My friend said “I always thought guys like that were brave, I can’t believe they are that scared. Probably they will go back to town with stories of how they just escaped being eaten by a cougar”. Indeed, but I bet they wouldn’t mention two women hiking at night to their friends. I wish I could have taken their picture from the ridge. What it all means is that lots of people in the USA have become so distant from understanding the outdoors that they live in some kind of personal movie when they are out there . . not in reality. If it is not a cougar that is going to get them it is a wolf, or a bear or even a coyote . . .

  9. karyn Avatar

    I feel we need an education compaign in this country. In my experience, too many people are influenced by the myths of the Big Bad Wolf story; believing it as truth. Too few know the true behavior nor the benefits the wolf contributes to a healthy wild ecosystem.

  10. Mike Ice Avatar
    Mike Ice

    Classic case of ignorance. Where can we get some valid information on wolves attacking humans?
    – – – –

    The Fear of Wolves: A Review of Attacks on Humans. Norsk institutt for naturfirskning. A massive report. Jan. 2002
    . Ralph Maughan

  11. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Many bears in the Pyrenaeans have been killed by hunters claiming self-defense. They have been told by conservationists to please avoid certain areas because of the presence of bears, walked in and killed the bears in a case of “provocated” self-defense. Sometimes they even sacrificed a dog or two to become more credible. This high density of self defense cases suddenly stopped when conservation agencies sent observes to the group hunting events. Observers had a dangerous job ob course. There are a few cases documented when hunters failed to distinguish between a wild boar and an observer.

  12. Heather Avatar

    I wrote a letter to the editor for the Missoulian regarding this “incident” If interested see opinion section of the Missoulian, Friday, June 6, 2008.

    NO threats please….I have first ammendment rights….

  13. Nathan Avatar

    Ill admit I would of been a bit nervous in that hunters shoes myself. The animals deserved a thrown rock or a warning shot shout ect though… They may have just been trailing to behind to see what kind of little critters the hunter stirred up as he walked along the road.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Yes he should have done that. Wolves are very skittish. It would have been fun to chase the wolf, and much better for the wolf too.

  15. Mike Ice Avatar
    Mike Ice

    Ya know, we can’t tell people that they can’t defend themselves, 10 feet is pretty close, but…if he shot a 1/2 yr old female wolf out of “fear” then this guy is afraid of his own shadow and pretty ignorant in my opinion. Years ago, I was hiking in Shenandoah National Park and a black bear (@100lbs) came ambling through the forest and approach me wihin about 10 feet, the bear had its nose to the ground but was unaware of my presence. I simply took off my hat and waved my arms in the air, the bear looked up, spun around and took off in the other direction. Instead of fear, I felt very lucky to have had the encounter with the little black bear. A little knowledge of flora and fauna and good judgement goes a long way.

  16. vicki Avatar

    I once fell out of a tree and landed 5 feet from a black bear. I took photos all the way down. He was much more interested in the dandelions. I don’t know what I would have done if he had taken interest. Climbing the tree was out of the question. I was in the tree taking a picture from a different vantage, he ambled right up with out me noticing. A wolf though, ten feet away, I am sure yelling would have had some effect.
    I don’t think many people are very familiar with how each animal encounter requires a different tactic. Cougars, you look big and be harsh, throw what you can reach without bending, fight back! Griz, you walk calmly backward, play dead, spread eagle with hands behind you head…. wolves, well that is a new one to many folks, myself included. But I take time to educate my friends and family on encounters, and more importantly how to avoid them. An unseen animal is more likely to stay alive.

  17. Linda Hunter Avatar

    I am surprised daily on how little information people have regarding animal encounters. Even informational brochures from responsible agencies differ and contradict advice for encounters with animals. Some say wave your arms and yell if you see a bear, others say back up slowly and play dead if the animal contacts you. Basically none of the advice offically given can be all wrong or all right. Agencies who advice on animal encounters cannot deviate from the “accepted” advice at any time because of liability issues. SO, a lot of it is wrong or incomplete. To be specific, advice for bear encounters is usually so general as to be meaningless. Each bear encounter has aspects that dictate the outcome, most of them being the reaction of the person involved as bears are great readers of body language. The best body language you can read from a bear is that it didn’t see you, which is a bear being polite to you. People who work around bears all the time give the same courtesy back to bears and they each wander away from each other. People who work around bears all the time also don’t step on them by accident, corner them or threaten to block them from a food source. As pet dogs are good at reading body language I bet wolves are too. In this case the young female wolf may have not experienced a human before and was mighty curious as to why this big, strong smelling animal was afraid. Lynne Stone knows a lot more about wolves than I do and her advice to make wolves afraid of us for their own good is well taken. At least, it is completely counterproductive to let wild animals conclude that we are afraid of them. The whole reason hunters have been able to say animals need to be hunted to instill fear of humans and get away with that preposterous idea is that animals respond to body language. Hunters are less afraid because they have their guns with them. . it is their attitude, not killing animals that puts proper fear into wild animals. New education on animal encounters is badly needed.

  18. Chris H. Avatar
    Chris H.

    Here is another report on wolf-human encounters that is more limited in geographic scope and at this point slightly dated: http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/pubs/techpubs/research_pdfs/techb13_full.pdf
    It was published by the State of Alaska, yet nevertheless is very even-handed.

    Thank you for the link to the other report!

  19. Monty Avatar

    I hike 4 out of every 7 days in the Cascade mtns. of Oregon, primarily looking for bears & lions to take pictures of & not kill. It is easy to find their tracks but rare to view. I ran into a couple hikers from Portland who were fearful of lions & bears. They asked me how often people are killed by lions. I replied that to the best of my knowledge about 10 humans had been killed by lions, in both Canada & US, in the previous 100 years and the majority killed were children or joggers acting like prey. The low numbers shocked them, they had no context!

  20. vicki Avatar

    I agree whole heartedly. The one thing I can say would be undisputable is, no matter what people are educated to, being educated will likely reduce the urge to panic. Panic is the worst thing to do in any emergency, at all, no doubt, no question.
    I don’t know of an animal, wild or domesticated, that would not capitalize on fear and panic of a person when the animal feels just as afraid or defensive.

    I don’t know how accurate 10 is, as I can think of atleast four attacks between California and Colorado myself. But you are most certainly right, they are few and far between. You are more likely to be murdered in your sleep than killed by a mountain lion or bear. Ofcourse those odds increase when you travel into the animals primary habitat more frequently…but so do your chances of being hit by a train if you cross the tracks on the way to work. It is all relevant to the situation and the person in it.

  21. JB Avatar


    I did not take the time to confirm their sources, but the following website (http://tchester.org/sgm/lists/lion_attacks.html#stats) documents 73 mountain lion attacks in the US and Canada between 1991 and 2003 (about 5.6/year).

    A study that looked at attacks in North America prior to 1990 found 9 fatal and 44 nonfatal documented attacks (http://www.cougarinfo.org/beier.htm).

    Based on this limited information, its hard to tell if attacks are increasing or if we’re just seeing better reporting. In any case, cougar attacks are extremely rare.


  22. J.A.Miller Avatar

    This type of incident tells us that either people ( hunters, hikers etc.) have not been EDUCATED on how to handle an encounter with wolves, bears, squirrels, or it was this the hunters story to justify why he shot the wolf, maybe he shot it just because it was there? Are there programs that would help people to understand wolf encounters for those that need to know if they are going to be out in the wilderness?I know there is education about bear encounters but I do not hear any about wolf encounter education. It is very distrubing to hear how easy wolves are being murdered, now that they are no longer protected. I use the word “protected” very loosely because the wolf management plans that were accepted by the USFWS might as well consider useless.( but you all know that)
    A comment made previously said that yelling or throwing rocks or shooting up in the air to frighten the wolf first is not required with officals. Shouldn’t this be a detail that need to be accepted and amended as law for steps to take before shooting a wolf? I know that this is easier said than done – but knowing (and they did know) all the yahoos out there ready and willing to shoot a wolf such details and precise description on what to do before shooting would need to be included. Too many loopholes fro those who look to do wrong.I know there is just as many yahoos in our governement by taking the wolf off the ESA list. I am sorry but I am and probably will always be angry at the USFWS and other gov branches for making such an irresponsible and detrimental decision.

  23. Catbestland Avatar

    I don’t know if this makes a lot of sense but when camping, it is comforting to me to here wolves howling. The way I see it, large predator species generally do not hang out with other large predator species, so when you hear wolves nearby, it makes sense that there probably aren’t a lot of bear or lions around. I think I would rather sleep amongst wolves than bears or lions because there are no known attacks by wolves on humans in the US. Does this make sense to some of you wolf experts?

  24. vicki Avatar

    I am no expert, but I can certainly understand what you are saying. When I hear them I feel comforted, not because other predators don’t loom (bears and wolves frequent the same areas and often compete for kills -bears take them away and vice-versa)…but because I feel like there is completeness. It brings me peace of mind to know that some wrongs are righted, and that, along with the lulling and harmonious sounds, help me sleep better.

  25. Catbestland Avatar

    I get the same sense of completeness when I hear wolves howl. But, I so rarely get to hear them that I find that I am too excited to sleep. It is one of the most beautiful sounds in Nature. I keep a recording handy to listen to when I feel the need.

  26. vicki Avatar

    It is rare. I also enjoy coyotes, they seem to yodel(sp.)
    Several years ago I parked by Slough, hoping to see the wolves. I saw them at a vast distance, but I heard them clear as a bell.
    I still remeber the first time I saw a wolf, I was 15. It was a black wolf in Alaska. The first pack I saw was in Yellowstone, the Druids. I heard them howl the day before I saw them, what awesome memories.
    I wish the entire world could know what that feels like.

  27. timz Avatar

    When a was about ten my father and I were trolling along the shoreline of a remote northern Minnesota lake. Two young wolf pups were playing in the water around a downed tree. When we would get near they would scamper up into the trees and peak out and watch us go by. As we moved past they would come back out and continue their play. This went on for almost two hours. A video of that would have been priceless. (BTW those cameras didn’t exist then)

  28. Catbestland Avatar

    That’s a great story. I hope that our (everyone’s) children and grandchildren are able to have such memories.

  29. Heather Avatar

    You can buy a wolf song for you cell phone ring through Verizon, I believe… FYI.

  30. Catbestland Avatar

    Defenders of Wildlife was giving one away in one of their last email drives. I tried to download it to my phone and was unsuccessful. I would really like to get that one.

  31. Maska Avatar

    Heather and Cat:

    You can download the howls of the critically imperiled Mexican gray wolf from the Center for Biological Diversity (assuming you aren’t technologically challenged and in possession of a very primitive cell phone, like me). The link to download lobo howls, along with the sounds of all sorts of other critters, is http://www.rareearthtones.org/ringtones

    Good luck!

  32. Catbestland Avatar

    That’s the one I meant. I tried and failed to download the ringtone. I will take my phone to the verizon store and get them to do it.

  33. Maska Avatar

    It’s worth a try. I know it can be done, because I was out on an animal tracking field trip with a guy who has it on his phone. But I sure haven’t the savvy to do it successfully. 🙂

  34. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    I used the download from Center for Biological Diversity. I then called Verizon (nothing technical is easy for me), and they were extremely helpful walking me through it. I have the Mexican Wolf howl…it’s great.

  35. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I have had a wolf howl on my cell phone for a couple of years now. It’s programed to my wife’s number.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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