Among the arguments often pulled out of thin air by those opposed to hunting wolves is the notion that wolf attacks are unfounded urban legends, as if the possibility of a wolf attacking a human is completely absurd.
Tell that to Noah Graham, a Minnesota teenager whose wounds tell a different story.
According to the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, Graham, 16, and his girlfriend were resting near his tent early Saturday morning on the U.S. Forest Service’s West Winnie Campground at Lake Winnibigoshish when a gray wolf snuck up on the teen from behind.
“The canine approached him from the rear and before he realized it was there, it had bit him in the back of his head,” Tom Provost, DNR regional enforcement supervisor in Grand Rapids, Minn., said in a press release. “His first indication was when he had its jaws clamped down on his head.”
The attack caught Graham completely off-guard, he said.
“There was no sound at all; didn’t hear it,” Graham told reporters. “It was just all of a sudden there.”
Graham’s girlfriend high-tailed it to her Jeep while two other members of the camping party slept through the attack. Luckily, Graham was able to escape from the wolf’s jaws.
“I had to reach behind me and jerk my head out of its mouth,” Graham told reporters after being treated for puncture wounds on the left and right side of his face. Graham also received a rabies shot as a precaution. “After I got up, I was kicking at it and screaming at it, and it wouldn’t leave. But then after a while I got it to run away.”
The campground was evacuated and closed immediately after the incident, and a 75-pound male wolf matching the attacking animal’s description was trapped and killed Monday. Officials said other campers had reported incidents in which a wolf had been sighted near campgrounds; a few even reported an animal biting through tents. DNA testing could confirm whether the trapped wolf was the one that attacked Graham. In the meantime, the campground will remain closed with traps set to be sure another wolf isn’t present, the DNR said.
Provost said the attack seemed to be a freak incident, adding it was the first time he’d heard of a wolf attack causing an injury to a human in Minnesota, though such run-ins with wolves are seemingly becoming more common. Last September, an Idaho elk hunter found himself surrounded by a pack of wolves, though he successfully took one of the predators with the help of his bow and a .22-caliber pistol.
In October, HUNTING online editors received a series of graphic photographs from Wisconsin hunter Ron Hill, whose 1 1/2-year-old hunting dog was brutally devoured by a pack of wolves.
Finally, just last week a pack of wolves herded a flock of sheep into a panicked mass in Idaho, killing 176 sheep—the largest wolf attack on livestock in state history. Only one of the sheep had been partially consumed; less than 10 of the dead sheep had been bitten by the wolves, and most of the animals were either asphyxiated or trampled.
While wolf attacks on humans are admittedly rare, this incident shows such attacks can happen. It’s still unknown why the wolf attacked Graham in the first place. In any case, given the gray wolf’s awesome strength, Graham is lucky to have walked away with just a few puncture wounds—it could have been much worse.