Geist: Circumstances leading to wolf attacks on people

Valerius Geist, 29.9.2007:

Statement by Valerius Geist pertaining to the death of Kenton Carnegie.

I have reviewed in some detail the material pertaining to the death of Kenton Carnegie, as well as reviewed the historical material pertaining to wolf attacks on humans.

FINDINGS

My first finding is that in early winter 2005 at Point North Landing there was evidence for circumstances facilitating an attack on humans by wolves, followed by the predicted, pre-attack behavior by wolves. That is, the events leading to the death of Kenton Carnegie follow the pattern predicting attacks on humans as described for wolves and earlier for coyotes. It is a pattern of (a) increasing habituation followed by (b) boldness, followed by (c) closing in and testing humans prior to the (d) fatal attack. Both species explore alternative prey in much the same manner. Unfortunately, nobody present recognized the growing danger. 


CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO WOLF ATTACKS ON PEOPLE

Wolves are protected from hunting.

This protection removes an important safety valve. It prevents wolves from being readily stalked and pursued. (1) Yet stalking and pursuit condition wolves from habituating to humans, keeping them shy and away from people. (2) Secondly, the only wolves, which are likely to become vulnerable are individuals rejected by the pack, or disadvantaged by age (too young & too old) and condition (emaciation, injury, and damaged teeth). These are the wolves, which are most likely to seek out human presence in search of food and to attack people.


Scarcity of natural prey.

1. Wolves enjoyed a long protection from hunting in Saskatchewan and increased in numbers. We also expect the wolves to begin losing their fear of humans, as well as deplete wildlife, their prey.

2. Long before Kenton’s death, attacks by wolves on livestock in Saskatchewan had developed into a general problem. That suggests a scarcity of natural prey.

3. Was there evidence for the scarcity of natural prey? The Saskatoon Star Phoenix of November 14th 2005 mentioned that local residents complained about the decline in game. There may be validity in the claims of residents. Scarcity of prey will force wolves into closer proximity of humans, which is not difficult for un-hunted wolves.

 

Garbage dump, rich food source, frequented by wolves.

Did wolves exploit the opportunity of obtaining food from a man-made source?

They did so for weeks on end (protected by the no-hunting regulations).

They came to a garbage dump and adjusted their arrival with that of the garbage carrying front-end loader. The wolves tore into plastic garbage bags beside the front-end loader. Consequently, wolves were increasingly used to human presence and human smells that they associated with food. Human scent was thus no longer a source of fear, but of expectation of food!

Wolves move about freely in daylight and were observed by personnel.

Did wolves become visible in daylight hours?

They did!

That means that they were thoroughly habituated to human activities and had little, if any fear left.

Did they grow increasingly tolerant of human presence? That is, did they overcome their enormous shyness and become increasingly tolerant of humans close by? 

They did! Wolves make a first exploratory attack on humans

Did the wolves become bold, approached and growl, bark, howl or snap at persons? Were attacking wolves beaten back with sticks? 

They were!

 

The detailed account of the Nov. 4th 2005 encounter between Todd Svarchopf and Chris van Gelder and two wolves leaves no doubt in my mind that they faced an exploratory attack, (which the two men were very fortunate to survive). Photos. It is significant that these photos were taken at the end of the encounter, after the wolves had been discouraged from further advances. They show Todd Svarchopf as photographed by Chris van Gelder. I have examined four photographic images, showing (1) a dark gray mottled wolf, broadside, fairly close to the photographer. The wolf’s eyes are averted. (2) The gray wolf confronting a man with a club-like black spruce snag in hand who is facing the wolf. The wolf is in threat mode with canine exposed, upper lip raised in a snarl, corners of the mouth slightly opened and ears pitched forward. This is the facial expression of an assertive, confident wolf. It’s an aggression stance. The wolf is in slight crouch, the hind legs well braced for a lunge forward. This is not the face or stance of an insecure wolf threatening defensively, but the stance of a confident, assertive wolf. This picture supports the statement by Todd that the wolves were aggressive. The light gray second wolf is moving into a support position towards the rear of the first wolf. (3) This picture shows two wolves in fully confident eye-aversion posture close to the photographer. There is not a hint of fear or insecurity in their body postures! Quite the contrary! The light gray wolf has a low level aggressive face, as revealed by the slightly open mouth, exposing the black gums, the high level of his head and the ears placed forward. Wolves assume such postures readily in the vicinity of prey. (4) The eye-aversion posture is guaranteed to fool humans who possess the face-to-face primate signal structure. Wolves like all large carnivores use body postures to signal in social situations. Eye aversion is done by confident, domineering individuals. The tail position where visible is neutral-to confident. These pictures were taken at the end of an encounter leaving the wolves in a confident position. These wolves thus displayed no fear of humans.

 

The wolves at the Point North Landing thus showed a classical pattern of pre-attack behavior – which nobody at the camp - or in the Saskatchewan game department - recognized as such.

An attack on a person was imminent before November 8th 2005. An attack by a pack is lethal. Well before Kenton Carnegie went on his walk on the afternoon of November 8th, 2005, it was a classical case of a wolf attack waiting to happen!

The Vargas Island attack by two wolves on a camper is a parallel to the Point North Landing case.

In both cases wolves habituated to people, in the Vargas Island (near Tofino, Vancouver Island) case, via a campground that was frequented by kayak parties, which overnighted there, as well as by very tolerant residents living on that island. The wolves began to loose their fear of humans and began being fed by campers.

In mid June 2000 the naturalist photographer Jackie Windh spent two days on the island photographing wolves. Two large wolves at once sniffed her heels, hand and licked her wrist. The two wolves became increasingly assertive, forcing Windh to throw rocks and swing a stick as the male lunged at her and finally ripped her pants. Professor Erich Klinghammer of Wolf Park, Battleground, Indiana, insists that adult wolves do not play. This behavior was thus pre-attack exploration of humans - as prey.

On Sunday the 2nd of July 2000 kayaker Scott Lavigne was attacked by wolves and injured severely. He was defended and saved by fellow campers and sent to hospital in Victoria, where his wounds were stitched together by some 50 stitches. The wolves were shot. They were healthy two-year-olds filled with deer fawns.

The wolves habituated to humans then escalated into testing humans and then attacked a human. The victim was saved by other campers, leaving no doubt as to who did attack.

 

 

Read the whole article:

Statement by Valerius Geist pertaining to the death of Kenton Carnegie.pdf