Historic Wolf Attacks on Humans

Historical Wolf Attacks on Humans

Quite often, people who advocate expanding the wolf populations in the rural areas of the United States will recite the slogan that “in the last 100 years, no documented wolf attacks on humans occurred in the U.S.A. within the lower 48 states.” This slogan is most likely a true or nearly true statement, considering that wolves were almost entirely eradicated from the lower 48 states by 1907. (Roosevelt, 1907)

Wolf attacks on humans simply cannot occur unless wolves are present, and within the last 100 years, until recently, wolves have not been present in large enough numbers to constitute a significant danger to humans. For a more accurate assessment of the threats that humans may face from re-established populations of wild wolves requires us to look back more than 100 years, to the days when wolves were present, abundant and available to cause humans harm. An online search of historic newspapers digitized by the Library of Congress provides us a glimpse into some of the wolf incidents that occurred in the late 19th century.

Of course, in those days nearly everyone was armed and there were no laws against shooting wolves. In the rural areas, a wolf could have been shot in self defense without any record being made of it. Today, Americans are disarmed to varying degrees by the law, so a wolf would not be shot simply for being present as in the early days of the country. Today, a wolf’s presence and aggression must be a provable threat to human life or the shooter risks federal felony charges with very high penalties. In the frontier days, wolves learned that mankind was a threat that must be avoided. Modern wolves, particularly Mexican wolves being reintroduced, are fully habituated to human presence in their captivity at zoos and other captive breeding facilities that profit from human-wolf interaction as a form of entertainment. Those wolves do not demonstrate the same fearful avoidance behaviors associated with their wild 18th and 19th century ancestors.

Historical Wolf Attacks On Humans In The Lower 48 States

This page updated September 30, 2015.

Due to recent research into historic archives, the list of documented wolf attacks on humans in North America is continuously growing. In addition, reintroduced wolves are interacting with humans as an increasing nuisance.

Wikipedia has documented 33 fatal wolf attacks on humans in North America so far.

For a complete list, see the Wikipedia page on the subject of Wolf Attacks in North America.

Warning: The research has shown that most of the historical fatal attacks in North America were adults killed after dusk when they were outside any solid shelter in the woods. In the last three decades, wolves have primarily attacked people who triggered the “chase” response. The victims include joggers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, horsemen, and snowmobilers. If you engage in these activities, be aware of your surroundings.

A few of the attacks on humans in the lower 48 states are listed below.

Fatal attacks

Vermont. Wolves kill butcher from Liberty Valley


Pennsylvania. Wolves eat 8-year old boy



Illinois. Trapper eaten by wolves




Michigan –Alexander Belliveau’s son eaten by wolves



Nonfatal attacks

1842 New Brunswick mail carrier chased by wolves; wolves kill 200 sheep
1875a Arizona, Nonfatal. Postmaster of Bradshaw, AZ attacked by 4 large wolves http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014898/1875-05-28/ed-1/seq-3/print/image_681x648_from_112%2C3967_to_1091%2C4900/


1881 Wisconsin. Sheep Farmer Attacked http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82015133/1881-11-27/ed-1/seq-2/print/image_681x648_from_3580%2C3570_to_5372%2C5277/


1885 Minnesota. Travelers attacked http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn94051692/1885-03-26/ed-1/seq-1/print/image_681x648_from_4161%2C6719_to_5571%2C8062/


Packard, 1888. Minnesota. Wolves chase skaters. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84021912/1888-01-14/ed-1/seq-1.pdf

Historical Wolf Attacks On Humans Outside The United States

Wolves kill family traveling near Vienna. 1875b

India. Wolves kill 564 humans. 1879 http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87062082/1879-12-05/ed-1/seq-2/print/image_681x648_from_1890%2C5891_to_3446%2C7373/

France. Nine wolves attacked humans.1884 http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84024828/1884-10-19/ed-1/seq-1/print/image_681x648_from_385%2C4207_to_2045%2C5788/

Paris. 19 people injured in wolf attacks. 1886



Columbia Democrat, April 25, 1840. p. 3

The Phoenix Herald, Dec. 5, 1879.

The Caledonian, January 25, 1842. p. 3

St. Johns Herald, March 26, 1885. p. 1

Arizona Weekly Miner, May 28,1875b. p. 3

Arizona Weekly Citizen, November 27, 1881. p. 2

Arizona Weekly Miner, May 28, 1875a. p. 3

Mohave County Miner, October 19, 1884. p. 1

‘A Terrible Rencontre and Death’, Burlington Free Press, April 1, 1836. p. 4

‘A Young Man’s Awful Death’, Southwest-sentinel, July 11, 1893. p. 1

‘Eaten By Wolves’, Las Vegas Daily Gazette, January 24, 1885. p. 1

‘Foreign Flashes’, Las Vegas Daily Gazette, March 24, 1886. p. 1

Packard, Sadie L. ‘A Race for Life: An Exciting Adventure with Two Savage Wolves’, Arizona Sentinel, January 14, 1888. p. 1

Roosevelt, Theodore. ‘From the Wilderness Hunter’, Albuquerque Evening Citizen, June 26, 1907. p. 6