Anchorage woman attacked by wolf

State wildlife biologist says there's little doubt about the attacker

Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2006

FAIRBANKS - An Anchorage woman is recovering from an attack by a wolf that chased her down then bit her twice.

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"I looked up and I saw (the wolf) just across the road," said Becky Wanamaker, a 25-year-old school teacher. "It came at me and I panicked and ran, which I probably shouldn't have done."

Wanamaker was walking along the Dalton Highway northwest of Fairbanks on Friday when she saw the gray and white wolf about 20 yards away. That's when the animal ran at her.

"It sunk its teeth into the back of one of my legs and I kind of stumbled, but I kept running toward the outhouse," she said, referring to an outhouse at the highway pullout. "I was pretty scared and I remember thinking, 'Don't fall. If you're down on the ground, you're toast.'"

The wolf bit her again.

Reaching the outhouse, Wanamaker ran inside and locked herself in and checked her wounds. She had an inch-long gash and three punctures on her right thigh. Her left leg had two punctures at the knee.

Some campers were near another outhouse close by. Wanamaker looked out and not seeing the wolf anywhere, she decided to seek help.

"I made it into the second outhouse and screamed to wake up the people camping," she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "I told them I got bit by a wolf."

The campers helped clean and bandage her legs before driving her back to her friends at a campground.

"They didn't believe me at first," Wanamaker said. "I got out of the car and said, 'Hey, I got bit by a wolf and we've got to leave.' They all started laughing."

Wanamaker was since been treated at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and is undergoing a series of rabies shots.

State wildlife biologist Mark McNay had little doubt it was a wolf that attacked Wanamaker.

"She said it was long legged and very lean," he said. "That's the typical thing you see when you see a wolf in the summer. It's all legs and very thin."

Wolf attacks on humans are unusual but not unprecedented, according to McNay, who spent two years researching wolf attacks in North America and came up with 13 such attacks in the past 30 years through the year 2000. Eleven attacks involved "habituated" or "food-conditioned" wolves that had lost their fear of people while only two were by unhabituated wolves, he said.

There have been more attacks in the past six years, McNay said. A man was killed by a wolf while hiking in the Canadian province Saskatchewan in 2005 and a jogger was attacked and bitten severely in 2004, also in Saskatchewan.

Wolves also have attacked people in Alaska, McNay said. Six years ago, a habituated wolf attacked a 6-year-old boy in a Southeast logging camp in Icy Bay. The boy fell as he was running and the bit him several times and tried to drag him away before it was shot, McNay said.

McNay said the wolf in the latest attack was likely not rabid, but probably habituated. Because of its behavior and the fact it was alone, McNay said it may have been a young wolf, probably a yearling.

"Those are the kinds of wolves that are typically by themselves and often show up at campgrounds," he said.



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