16-year-old boy attacked by wolf at Lake WinnieUPDATE: Noah Graham, of Solway, Minn., suffered puncture wounds on the left and right sides of his face.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
A 16-year-old Solway, Minn., boy was injured in an apparent wolf attack early Saturday morning as he rested in his tent on Lake Winnibigoshish near Cass Lake, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Noah Graham suffered puncture wounds on the left and right sides of his face.
“I had to reach behind me and jerk my head out of its mouth,” he said after being treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a Bemidji hospital.
The incident occurred at the U.S. Forest Service’s West Winnie Campground, near where the Mississippi River enters Lake Winnibigoshish. The campground was closed and evacuated Saturday and remains closed, according to the DNR.
“The canine approached him from the rear and before he realized it was there, it had bit him in the back of his head,” said Tom Provost, DNR regional enforcement supervisor in Grand Rapids. “His first indication was when he had its jaws clamped down on his head.”
“He’s got puncture wounds on his head and an 11-centimeter (4.3-inch) wound that had to be closed,” said Cheri Zeppelin, DNR Northeast Region information officer in Grand Rapids.
Wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare, Provost said. He called the incident “a freak deal.”
“It’s the first one I’m aware of (in Minnesota),” he said. “I’m not aware of another where there was physical damage to the victim.”
A wolf matching the description of the animal that attacked Graham was trapped and killed at the campground early today by the Wildlife Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Provost said. The wolf was transported to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in St. Paul for a necropsy.
DNA testing could confirm if the wolf that was trapped is the same one that attacked Graham, Provost said.
Graham said he received a shot to combat rabies after the attack. The wolf will be tested for rabies, and results of that testing should be available Tuesday or Wednesday, Provost said.
“I won’t be sleeping outside, again, any time soon,” said Graham, who was talking to his girlfriend just before the wolf attacked without warning. “There was no sound at all; didn’t hear it. It was just all of a sudden there.”
Graham’s girlfriend fled during the attack.
“She ran and got in her Jeep right away,” he said, and two members of the camping party slept through the screaming, kicking and fighting, he said.
The wolf that was trapped was a 75-pound male, an average-sized wolf, Provost said. He said the wolf that was trapped had a deformed jaw that might have made it difficult for the wolf to acquire food by taking down large prey. No other wolves were seen at the campground, Provost said.
After the wolf attacked Graham, sometime between 4 and 4:30 a.m. Saturday, he struggled with it briefly.
“After I got up, I was kicking at it and screaming at it, and it wouldn’t leave,” he said. “But then after a while I got it to run away.”
Statements from other campers indicated there were other incidents at the campground where an animal bit through tents, one resulting in the puncturing of an air mattress, according to the DNR. Another camper indicated that he saw a wolf near his campsite with coloration and markings matching the description of the animal believed to have attacked Graham, a DNR news release stated.
“I thought it was a big coyote, but I guess it’s a wolf,” Graham said.
There have been two wolf-attack fatalities in North America in the past decade, according to the DNR. One was in northern Canada and another was in Alaska.
According to Dr. L. David Mech, a wolf researcher with the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Geological Survey, writing on the International Wolf Center website: “Two interesting wolf-human encounters in Northeastern Minnesota add further to the mix of ways in which wolves have interacted with humans, without the humans coming out seriously injured.
“The first incident involved a logger who saw two wolves attacking a deer nearby. The logger picked up his dog, which had become extremely frightened by the deer attack. One of the wolves charged toward the man and dog, catching a lower fang on the logger’s black-and-red checkered wool shirt and slicing a 6-inch gash in the material. As the wolf tried to yank free from the logger’s clothes, its jaws opened wide and the logger looked right down the animal’s throat.
“ ‘It wasn’t me the wolf was attacking,’ the logger said. ‘He was trying to get the dog who just happened to be in my arms.’ ”
The second Minnesota incident, according to Mech, left a 19-year-old hunter with a long scratch from a wolf’s claws. The man had been hunting snowshoe hares deep in a thick swamp north of Duluth during a snowstorm, Mech wrote.
“He was wearing his deer-hunting jacket, which was well anointed with buck scent,” Mech wrote. “Suddenly a wolf hit him from behind and knocked him over onto his back. As the wolf stood over him, the startled hunter managed to fire his .22-caliber rifle. The wolf appeared to come to its senses and fled, leaving the hunter with a long scratch.”
Justin Glawe of the Bemidji Pioneer contributed to this report. The Bemidji Pioneer and the News Tribune are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.