Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Death by Wolf

Candice Berner, a 32-year-old school teacher, was found dead off of a road near Chignik Lake, Alaska and authorities believe a wolf attack was the cause of her death.

State officials killed two wolves on Monday that they believe were responsible for the attacks. They are in the process of testing the wolves for rabies and attempting to match genetic data from the wolves to the scene of the attack. The search is still on for more wolves that might have been connected to the attack.

Berner, a Pennsylvania native, had taken up trapping since moving to Alaska and was well aware of the dangers in the Alaskan wilderness, according to her personal blog, which Julia O'Malley of the Anchorage Daily News wrote a column about.

Wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare, but might be increasing. Retired Fish and Game biologist Mark McNay, who has studied wolf attacks in North America, was quoted in the Anchorage Daily News story on the attack.
McNay, who now lives in Kansas, is the author of a 2002 study published by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that examined 80 wolf-human encounters in North America, nearly half of which involved elements of aggression among healthy wolves.

The cases in which wolves are most aggressive are the cases involving wolves that have become habituated to people, he said.

"There's only been one other case of a fatal wolf attack by a healthy, wild wolf in North America, and that happened in 2005 in northern Saskatchewan," McNay said. "It is extremely rare. There have been other cases, of course, of wolves behaving aggressively toward people.

"The frequency of these cases seems to have increased in the past decade or so."

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