Addressing Complex Issues and Correcting Errors

3 Geist, V. April 12th 2015 re: Die Zeit, No 14, 1 April 2015 Dossier pp. 11-13

Dear Dr. Willeke,

April 12th 2015

Regards: Die Zeit, No 14 1 April 2015 Dossier, Stefan Willeke, Die Wölfe kommen. pp. 11-13.

Please extend my thank you to Sigrid Weise for sending me the layout – pdf of your article Die Wölfe kommen, which I received only after my return from Germany. I had an opportunity to read the article while in Germany. I understand your caution and appreciate some of the information you gathered that is new and useful to me. However, the story is complex, and there are some errors.

I am writing this letter in English as I shall distribute it to various sourced because of its historic significance. I shall deal here only with two errors, one minor, but the second one of some importance.

You wrote, that upon asking my Tahltan neighbors in the Spatsizi about their experience with wolves they said that it was good. They said no such thing. They said merely that wolves were for them no problem (please see p. 195-196 of volume 39 (2014) in Beitrage zur Jagd & Wildforschung). I think it was I who told you that my experiences there with wolves were good. They were good, even though I experienced a mistaken identity attack by three wolves on my person. I must add that much later, in Alberta, I also experienced a mistaken identity attack on my person by three coyotes. Both incidents ended hilariously when the wolves and coyotes, respectively, discovered the error of their ways.

Your account of how I developed my insights into how wolves target alternative prey, humans included, is not correct. I developed how wolves targeted humans well before Kenton Carnegie was killed, and I was not alone in developing such. Far from it! Allow me, please, to show you how.

I first presented how wolves targeted people in a keynote address delivered at a symposium on habituation in wildlife arranged by The Wildlife Society on September 27th 2005 in Madison, Wisconsin (Habituation of wildlife to humans: research tool, key to naturalistic recording and common curse for wildlife and hapless humans).

That was 41 days BEFORE Kenton Carnegie was killed.

Secondly, I soon discovered that exactly the same targeting procedure had been described for coyotes, or prairie wolves, targeting children in urban parks six years earlier by two professors in California, namely Robert M. Timm ( and Rex O. Baker ( I acknowledged these two researchers in my 2007 report on when wolves are dangerous to people ( My contribution is merely affirming, independently, for wolves, what Robert Timm and Rex Baker had discovered for coyotes. The targeting of humans by wolves, as I described it in 2005 in Madison, is an excellent example of how habituation transitions to full exploration, which is the reason I presented it then. My subsequent investigation of the Kenton Carnegie tragedy showed that said targeting of humans by wolves had also taken place in that case.

You suggest that my development of how the wolf targets people led to my alienation from other wolf researchers. Not so. In September 2004, a year before my keynote address in Madison, The Wildlife Society met in Calgary. Here I met David Mech. David and I shared the Book of the Year Award of The Wildlife Society in 1972, he for his book on wolves, I for my book on mountain sheep. We were then good friends. I told David of my observations of the misbehaving wolf pack on Vancouver Island, and David’s response was: “Val, if anybody else would have told me that, I would not have believed it”. David was unhappy about my subsequent analysis of how the harmless wolf myth was formulated, in which he and several other colleagues were involved (Geist 2007). However, another researcher, the Russian academician Mikhail M. Pavlov, had reached 25 years earlier much the same conclusions as I did (see p. 176, appendix A in Will N. Graves 2007 Wolves in Russia, Detselig, Calgary). Nevertheless, David invited me to a wolf symposium, an invitation, which unfortunately, I could not follow up then due to my wife’s illness.

I hasten to add that my observations and thoughts on wolves were vetted through long conversations with my late friend professor Erich Klinghammer, an ethologist like myself with links to Konrad Lorenz, and creator of the research facility Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana, as well as in writing with professor Raymond Coppinger (;, who, alone or with his wife Lorna, has authored several books on their research with canids, and with professor Harry Frank (, who, with his wife Martha, are long time students of wolves held in close contact with humans.

I hope the irony has not escaped you that while students of the little prairie wolf were fully cognizant of its danger to humans, and were developing constructive steps to ameliorate such, vocal proponents of the big timber wolf were not only denying such, but defamed researchers of a contrary view, and even destroyed their publications (see Geist 2007).

To show you just how far researchers were ahead on the matter of coyote aggression towards humans, I am entering here the abstract and ULR of a 2004 paper. Please note the dates!

Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem* Robert M. Timm, Hopland Research & Extension Center, University of California, Hopland, California Rex O. Baker, California State Polytechnic University-Pomona (retired), Corona, California Joe R. Bennett, USDAAPHIS Wildlife Services, Taft, California Craig C. Coolahan, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, Sacramento, California

ABSTRACT: Coyote attacks on humans and pets have increased within the past 5 years in California. We discuss documented occurrences of coyote aggression and attacks on people, using data from USDA Wildlife Services, the California Department of Fish & Game, and other sources. Forty-eight such attacks on children and adults were verified from 1998 through 2003, compared to 41 attacks during the period 1988 through 1997; most incidents occurred in Southern California near the suburban-wildland interface. Attack incidents are typically preceded by a sequence of increasingly bold coyote behaviors, including: nighttime coyote attacks on pets; sightings of coyotes in neighborhoods at night; sightings of coyotes in morning and evening; attacks on pets during daylight hours; attacks on pets on leashes and chasing of joggers and bicyclists; and finally, mid-day sightings of coyotes in and around children’s play areas. In suburban areas, coyotes can lose their fear of humans as a result of coming to rely on ample food resources including increased numbers of rabbits and rodents, household refuse, pet food, available water from ponds and landscape irrigation run-off, and even intentional feeding of coyotes by residents. The safe environment provided by a wildlife-loving general public, who rarely display aggression toward coyotes, is also thought to be a major contributing factor. The termination or reduction of predator management programs adjacent to some urban areas has also served to contribute to coyotes’ loss of fear of humans and to a dependency on resources in the suburban environment. Corrective action can be effective if implemented before coyote attacks on pets become common. However, if environmental modification and changes in human behavior toward coyotes are delayed, then removal of offending predators by traps or shooting is required in order to resolve the threat to human safety. We note the failure of various non-lethal harassment techniques to correct the problem in situations where coyotes have become habituated to human-provided food resources. Coyote attacks on humans in suburbia are preventable, but the long-term solution of this conflict requires public education, changes in residents’ behavior, and in some situations, the means to effectively remove individual offending animals.

KEYWORDS: Canis latrans, coyote, coyote behavior, coyote-human attacks, human safety, urban coyote Proc. 21st Vertebr. Pest Conf. (R. M. Timm and W. P. Gorenzel, Eds.) Published at Univ. of Calif., Davis. 2004. Pp. 47-57.

I hope that you will find some use for above material, and I stand ready to assist you and answer any question you might have. I am sure your involvement with wolves is not at an end.

Sincerely, Valerius Geist,
Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science