16-year-old attacked near Lake Winnibigoshish is state’s first such recorded victim.
A solitary wolf bit a 16-year-old-old boy sleeping outside his tent near Lake Winnibigoshish on Sunday, the first documented wolf attack in Minnesota history.
The unidentified boy, who is reportedly from Solway, Minn., stood up and kicked at the wolf, which then ran away, according to state wildlife officials.
The teenager, who was staying at a campground in the Chippewa National Forest, was driven to a hospital near Bemidji, where he was treated for a gash on the back of his head and canine punctures on either side of his face.
A 75-pound adult male wolf that matched the description provided by the boy and others at the campground was trapped and killed Monday morning by federal wildlife officials.
The wolf’s body was taken to the University of Minnesota veterinary school, where it is being tested for rabies and dissected. Investigators will collect DNA in an effort to match it to saliva samples on the victim.
“This is a rare occurrence,” said Tom Provost, enforcement manager for the Department of Natural Resources. He said there have been no other recorded cases in Minnesota of a wild wolf attacking a human, though it has occurred elsewhere in the United States and Canada, and more frequently in India.
The wolf that was killed Monday had a deformed jaw. The top and bottom were out of alignment, and it was missing a canine tooth, Provost said, meaning the animal likely had learned to survive by hanging around campgrounds.
In order to hunt successfully, wolves must be able to exert tremendous force on their prey, Provost said. An adult wolf is capable of biting with a force of 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch, a strength that makes it possible to chomp through a moose femur in six to eight bites. A German shepherd has a biting pressure of 750 pounds per square inch.
“It was trapped in an area where it was likely habituated to humans and had the ability to grab easy food,” he said. “That’s not normal behavior.”
In fact, other campers reported that the wolf was behaving in an entirely unwolf-like way. Normally, wolves stay away from humans and are rarely alone. Pat Tetrault, 28, was one of several people who saw the wolf in the campground Friday and early Saturday. His wife saw it by their truck. In the early morning, while the family of four and their dog were fast asleep, it bit through the wall of their tent.
“It was by where my son was sleeping,” Tetrault said. “He said he felt it go under the tent, and then lift it up. He thought it was pretty cool. Took him awhile to go back to sleep.”
About ten minutes later Tetrault said he heard shouting from the direction of where the teenager was bitten.
Provost said that the teenager was lying outside his tent when “unbeknownst to him a large canine approached him from the rear.” He woke up when the wolf bit his head, and it was a “struggle to free himself from its jaws,” Provost said. The boy confronted the wolf, but it fled only when he launched a kick at it.
Friends and members of his family provided rudimentary first aid, and then drove him to the hospital.
Wildlife officials evacuated the campground and set up a perimeter. One officer saw it on the road and took a shot at it, but missed. On Monday morning federal wildlife officials found the wolf caught in a leg-hold trap that had been set around the campground over the weekend, and shot it.
Josephine Marcotty • 612 673 7394