You should be armed with the necessary information on how to survive a wolf attack, or even better, avoid an encounter with them, especially if you’re a frequent hiker and camper.
Wolves naturally are not man-eaters and typically do not exhibit hostile behaviors toward people. They’d rather avoid human confrontation.
However, in the few reported cases of wolf attacks, it’s been the outcome of the attempted separation of a pet and a wolf by pet owners.
They mostly prey on elk, deer, bison, and other larger mammals in an organized pack and are opportunistic hunters seeking out sick, young, and disabled prey.
Surviving a wolf attack in the wild is possible, with the instance of a recent occurrence at the Banff National Park, Canada.1 However, it is dangerous to downplay the viciousness of wolves when attacking prey, perceived aggressors, or encroachers.
What should be your next line of action if you find yourself being attacked by a wolf?
This article gives insight into this with effective tips on how to deal with wolves in the wild from outdoorsy experts. Read on to learn how.
Why Do Wolves Attack Humans?
Wolves naturally do not go man-hunting. The reported cases of attacks are due to some reasons.
When they are injured, they become vulnerable and aggressive, leading to an attack if you encounter them in this state.
They can also attack when they perceive encroachment of their territories.
They do this to defend themselves and protect their young ones and their dens. Wolves attack when they feel threatened, especially if you draw too close.
How Do Wolves Attack Their Prey?
There is still a lot to know about how wolves attack and kill their prey. This is because, like humans, they constantly evolve as a pack and create new hunting tactics after failure.2
That being said, these wild dog species hunt and kill by exhausting and outlasting their game. They then bite on the back and hind legs.
By now the prey would get weak. The wolf then finishes them off by going for the kill (biting their neck).
One of their biggest strengths is the pack system. A lone wolf would have a harder time taking down prey, especially when the latter is bigger. Pack hunting enables them to pool in their strength and conquer a big game.
Do Wolves Attack Humans?
Sadly, the answer is yes, wolves do attack humans. While attacks on humans are rare, it is vital to know what can trigger these attacks on humans.
Here are three possible reasons why wolves attack humans:
The Rabies virus allows wolves to lose timidity toward humans and exhibit violent characteristics. Most deadly wolf attacks throughout time, from the 1200s to date, have involved rabies.
They can get rabies after feeding on an infected animal. Signs of a rabies-infested wolf are aggression, fearfulness, difficulty swallowing, excessive drooling, staggering, paralysis, and seizures.
These wild animals can be protective around their den and rendezvous places, but when they become too relaxed around people and people act kind around them, it gives rise to what is known as habituation.
It means that wolves permit advances from people; most times, it can be these animals that initiate the approach out of interest.
When wolves search for food near the human habitat, they become food conditioned. The problem begins when the animals don’t find the expected food they used to receive.
They become more willful and approach people even closer when they no longer get food; after that, they are just one step away from becoming aggressive.
Do Wolves Attack Humans For No Reason?
Most attacks by hearty wild wolves happen because they feel threatened by humans due to habituation or provoked when humans corner or trap them.
Research also shows that wolves attack has decreased rapidly as rabies infestation on wolves reduced.3
Most wolves do not threaten human safety. Without rabies infestation, there’s a much better chance of getting struck by lightning or bitten by dogs than being attacked by a wolf in the wild.
Notwithstanding, like all other wildlife, they are spontaneous fantastic beasts and better kept at a safe distance
How to Survive a Wolf Attack in the Wild – 7 Pro Tips
1. Avoid Triggering an Attack
If you find yourself suddenly confronted by a wolf, you can prevent it from advancing by following these guidelines.
Do not run. Wolves are apex predators; they love an excellent hurt as they see you as prey when you run.
Do not turn your back on the wolf as you slowly and calmly step away from it, and avoid making eye contact with them because they see this as a challenge.
Avoid showing teeth because wolves are susceptible to body movement and might perceive the show of teeth as a threat.
Lower your head and bow a little as the wolf will see this as a non-threatening way of you acknowledging it as the alpha.
2. Dealing with the possibility of attack
If the wolf begins to growl, snap and charge toward you, you must switch from submissive behavior to behaving confidently and showing the beast that you are not easy prey.
Stretch your arms out and extend your body to its full height.
3. Aggressively shout to scare the wolf
If you have stones or other objects with you, throw them at them. It is highly far-fetched that you can go one-on-one with a wolf or scare it off completely. You aim to make the creature back off to make your getaway.
Run to where people are, as wolves are much more likely to prey on one person than a group of people. These animals hate fire; hence, heading toward a fire discourages them from coming too nearer.
If you are alone, find a tree you can climb because wolves cannot climb trees. You might be in for a long wait; however, a long wait on a tree is better than being attacked.
5. Curl into a Fetal Position
If you can not escape, it has been suggested that you fold into a fetal position, protecting your face and neck with your arms as wholly as possible.
When these wild animals are going for the kill, they target the neck. As soon as you can shake the wolf off, try to get back on your feet and once again try challenging the wolf.
6. Fight Back
If the wolf is still not backing off, use anything in sight to strike a heavy blow on the creature.
Aim for the face, particularly its nose, as it is one of the most sensitive parts of the wolf’s face, and a heavy blow can stun it momentarily.
Show the animal that you are a significant threat and won’t surrender to it as you keep going for the stunning impact. If you can do this enough, there is every possibility the wolf will back off.
7. Bear spray works on any creature with lungs
If you are preparing for camping or hiking, one of the safety tools you should consider is bear spray, as it could come in handy for wolves attack.
Suppose you are in a sudden wolf attack where the wolf is within proximity. A blast of the spray will scare the wolf away.
When they hunt in packs, the front liners distract the prey, and other pack members launch an attack to demobilize the prey.
If a pack of wolves attacks you, quickly spray the ones closer and do the same for those at the back.
Do not focus solely on those at the front, as the back liners will launch an attack. That will be your safest bet if you are in places where guns are not permitted.
How to Avoid a Wolf Attack
1. Be mindful of bringing unstrapped dogs into wolf country
If this might sound strange, imagine the conflicts amongst dogs that always occur in parks when a smaller dog gets into a showdown with a giant dog. It’s the dog-dog interaction that often generates conflict.
2. Avoid solo camping and backpacking areas where wolves are known to wander
Rangers and officers at stations and campgrounds are good places to inquire if you’re hoping to get information on wolves in the area before setting camp or hiking.
It is also important not to go solo camping as this leaves you vulnerable in case of an attack.
The survivors of wolf attacks, in most cases, are not alone. The intervention of people around will scare off the wolf.
3. Do not habituate wolves to humans
Refrain from feeding or letting them feel too comfortable around you or your vicinity. This is how conflicts begin; if not for you, then maybe for others.
This is because wolves are intelligent species and learn quickly from humans; they may try to outsmart you or even treat you like one of the pack members, and if it does happen, pray it treats you as the alpha.
4. Avoid fresh wolf’s fresh kill, dens, or rendezvous sites
Again, park officials are a great help for local information about the area and the dos and don’ts to reduce the risk of ending up in an unsafe area.
It is best to avoid areas confirmed as Wolf territories to avoid sudden contact. When selecting possible hiking or camping destinations, a wolf-free zone or areas free of dangerous wildlife should be your choice.
5. Don’t let children play or wander away from camp in wolf country
If you are camping with the kids, do not allow them to wander around or stay away from your sight as this can be very dangerous.
To ensure their safety, keep them within proximity or set a barricade around the camp to prevent them from walking into dangerous situations.
Kids will be easy targets for wolves as they do not have the body size to scare off wolves.
What to Do if You Encounter a Wolf Pack
1. Do not take to flight immediately
It can be frightening to suddenly stand in front of three to five wolves at a time; despite this scary scenario, resist the temptation to take off.
Running immediately after seeing a pack of wolves is not advisable as you will be unable to outrun them.
2. Do not try to stare the animals down
Staring directly at a wolf can be perceived as a form of aggression, threat, or challenge, especially when faced with a pack of wolves. The pack will not fall in line.
Some of them will flank you, and staring at them all at once is impossible even if it were an option. Threaten the lead animal and appear bigger; raise it above your head if you have a jacket or shit on.
3. Shout at the wolves and step backward
Another thing you can do to scare off the wolves is to shout at them. Project your voice, be loud, and try not to fall on the ground while moving backward.
However, when shouting, don’t exhibit excessive fear; maintain control of yourself and be careful not to look vulnerable to them. Grab a few stones and haul them at the wolves before backing off slowly.
4. Never back a pack of wolves
If you are working in an enclosure, get yourself to a position with your back to the fence, and then, keeping your back to the fence, move towards an exit. Be careful not to trip.
A fall could encourage an attack. If you’re working with captive animals in enclosures, you should work in pairs or, at a minimum, be connected to nearby help via radio. This last piece of advice is for working with large and wild animals.
Are Wolves Dangerous to Humans?
The threat wolves present to humans is very low because wild wolves are shy and fearful of human presence and try their best to avoid them.
Although like many predators, rare circumstance poses some serious risk to humans. It’s noteworthy that wolves’ attack on humans are very rare and only happen if they feel threatened or cornered.
As earlier said, wolf attacks are rare but happen. Exploring the wild through hiking and camping is a great idea.
However, you must have the right information about being safe when you come in contact with wolves in the wild.
Conduct thorough research, contact local wildlife authorities about your destination before exploring, and avoid solitary wildlife exploration.