When Do Wolves Become Dangerous to Humans?

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Dear Reader,

This two-part report was written with the understanding that the readers would be members of a jury and the judiciary in a coroner’s inquiry into the death of 22 year old Kenton Carnegie. That is, missing here is an account of how Kenton Carnegie lost his life, except in so far as it can be deduced from the second part of this report, which addresses the question, who and what killed and consumed Kenton Carnegie. I was asked By Kenton’s parents to look into the matter, as a fairly clear-cut case of wolf-predation was obfuscated by public claims that not wolves, but a black bear had done it. The motive appears to have been to perpetuate in the public media the myth of the harmless wolf, of a predator that does not attack people. This myth was the subject of investigation in the first essay, “When do wolves become dangerous to humans?”. It is a lethal myth unsupported by current or historical information. That investigation led to some very odd insights, but also exposed flawed scholarship. Wolves can become exceedingly dangerous to people under the appropriate circumstances, and the tale about little Red Riding hood was based – alas – not on myth or superstitions, but on sound evidence! The inability of scientists to deal with historical scholarship is here partially to blame. In the second part of my report I go about examining the evidence pertaining to the death of Kenton Carnegie, concluding that wolves killed Kenton.

Valerius Geist

Final Draft 29th of September 2007


Valerius Geist, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science, The University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


The politically correct view about wolves, currently vehemently and dogmatically defended, is that wolves are “harmless” and of no danger to humans. This view arose from the early research of eminent North American biologists who, confronted by historical material contradictory to their experiences, greatly mistrusted such. Due to language, political and cultural barriers they could access such at best in part, but they were nevertheless convinced that the old view of wolves, as enshrined in Grimm’s fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood was incorrect and based on ill founded myths, fears and
superstitions. They were greatly aided in this by premature conclusions about free-living and captive wolves carried on in North America, as well as by a brilliant literary prank by a renowned Canadian author and humorist, which illustrated wolves as harmless mouse eaters. While Canadian scientists quickly caught on, they nevertheless welcomed the opposition to the Little Red Riding Hood myth. They pointed to the undeniable fact that wolves killed no human in North America in the 20th Century. This did not, however, reflect on the nature of wolves, but rather on circumstances: wolves were eradicated or severely prosecuted over much of the continent, North Americans were well armed and
quickly removed misbehaving wolves where such were still present, while hunted wolves are exceedingly shy and avoid humans. The view of the “harmless” wolf was greatly welcomed by the communist party of Russia, which ever since coming to power suppressed accounts of man-killing wolves. During and after the Second World War such censorship intensified, as was only disclosed after the fall of the communist rule in Russia. The reason for such suppression was to obscure the link between lethal wolf
attacks and the disarming of the civilian population during the war. Wolves quickly exploited the defenselessness of villagers, leading to many fatal attacks on humans. When Russian scientists disclosed this, their translations in the west were suppressed and their authority and motives questioned by environmental organizations and some scientists.

Ironically, Western environmentalists and Russian communists thus pulled on the same rope, albeit for different motives. In the West it was feared that valid information about dangers from wolves would impede wolf re-introductions and population recovery. It is even more ironic that, while wolf biologists stoutly denied dangers from wolves and failed to develop any understanding of the conditions under which wolves were harmless or dangerous, their counterparts studying urban coyotes did just that. They described a progression of behaviors, which predicts when coyotes would attack children. Wolves follow much the same progression. It can be divided into seven steps with increasing risk to humans, culminating with attacks on humans. Such a progression can be developed from historical material as well as from current attacks by wolves on humans in North America. The fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood is thus based in very real historical experiences in central Europe. In addition to targeted attacks, wolves can mistakenly charge humans. The politically correct myth of the harmless wolf is being defended with a number of lethal fallacies as well as by wrongly invoking the prestige of science. In practice it is a lethal myth and the tragic death of 22-year-old Kenton Carnegie on November the 8th 2005 in northern Saskatchewan, is a case in point. He had no authoritative warning. He was killed by wolves, which, protected from hunting, were not merely habituated to people through the use of a garbage dump, but had already mounted a first exploratory attack on humans, which was narrowly defeated. Against a pack of wolves, a lone man has no chance.

Note: This is a 40-page piece of work that can be viewed and/or downloaded by following this PDF link.