Test: No rabies in wolf that hurt child

Posted: Friday, April 28, 2000

ANCHORAGE --A wolf that bit a 6-year-old boy in a Yakutat-area logging camp this week did not have rabies.

Tests conducted Thursday on the wolf's head at the Alaska State Virology Laboratory in Fairbanks came back negative for the disease, said lab manager Don Ritter.

Ritter said he can't remember a similar occurrence involving a rabies-free wolf in Alaska. The last two human deaths in Alaska from rabid wolf attacks were in the 1940s, he said.

The wolf's body, which was partially burned, was being flown to Juneau for further tests by the Division of Wildlife Conservation. If possible, tests would be done to see if the wolf, which wore a radio collar, had been eating garbage and perhaps had no fear of people.

Victor VanBallenberghe, a retired U.S. Forest Service biologist, said the wolf was caught and collared near the mouth of the Copper River in March 1996. At the time the animal was about 10 months old and weighed 77 pounds.

If the wolf had turned out to be rabid, it could have helped to explain why it attacked John Stingline, who was bitten once on his back and twice on his buttocks.

The boy was treated at a local clinic. He needed about a half-dozen stitches to close the puncture wounds.

Stingline was reportedly playing with a 9-year-old friend and his dog Wednesday morning when the wolf entered the Icy Bay logging camp.

The children ran and the wolf chased them and attacked the younger boy, said Mike Thompson, father of the older child. A camp carpenter threw rocks at the wolf to chase it away from the boy, but it remained on the edges of the camp.

Thompson later killed the wolf with one shot after luring it back into camp with a rabbit-in-distress call.

``He didn't have any fear,'' Thompson said.

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