The big bad wolf is often portrayed as a fearsome creature, but in reality, they are generally shy and avoid humans. However, there have been instances of wolves attacking humans, so it’s important to know what to do if you encounter one while hiking.
What Are Wolves?
Wolves are large, wild canines that typically live and hunt in packs. They are found throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Wolves vary in size, but most adults weigh between 40 and 175 pounds.
Appearance-wise, they look very similar to the coyote. Except they are much, much, bigger.
With that being said, wolves are actually considered part of the dog family – but that doesn’t mean you should go up to one and pet it. As a matter of fact, that’s probably rule number one when it comes to wildlife safety tips.
And as far as the population goes, there are estimated to be only 18,000 wolves in the United States, with around 66% of them located in Alaska alone. With such a low population, and with them being shy creatures that avoid humans – your chances of coming face to face with a wolf in the wild are very slim.
You won’t find wolves in tropical rainforests; instead, they will roam in more open areas like mountains, tundra, and grasslands.
Are Wolves Dangerous?
Wolves are generally shy animals that will avoid humans if they can. Add the waning population of wolves to that mix, and you’re looking at an animal that is more scared of you than you are of it.
However, if you do come up close and personal with a wolf and it feels provoked, here is some information to be aware of:
- Wolves are generally afraid of humans but may attack if they feel threatened or cornered.
- Wolves typically attack people from behind, going for the back of the neck or head.
- Wolves will also go for your face and throat if given the opportunity.
- If you have food with you, a wolf may try to steal it.
- Wolves are more likely to attack children than adults.
- Wolves pack a strong punch with a bite force of nearly 400 psi. However, some claim certain wolves can generate as much as 1,200 psi, which would be just as powerful as a grizzly bear.
What to Do if You See a Wolf While Hiking?
If you see a wolf while hiking, the best thing you can do is stay calm and make yourself as large as possible. Try to make yourself look as unappetizing as possible by raising your arms above your head and making loud noises.
You should also back away slowly while facing the wolf. If you turn your back on it or run away, you’re more likely to trigger its predatory instincts.
Wolves are pretty similar to mountain lions in the sense that you want to avoid eye contact and make yourself as unappetizing as possible. And playing dead or acting timid is only going to make things worse.
And remember, if you do encounter a wolf while hiking, but they don’t notice you, keep your distance and don’t approach it. Just because they’re part of the dog family doesn’t mean they’ll jump on top of you and shower you with love.
What Are Signs Of A Wolf While Hiking?
I always say prevention is the best medicine. And when it comes to wildlife, that statement couldn’t be more true.
So, what are some signs that a wolf may be in the area? Here are a few things to look out for:
- Tracks: Look for large paw prints that are greater than 4 inches in width. You can find tracks in mud, snow, or dust.
- Scat: Wolf scat is usually 6 to 8 inches in length and 1 to 2 inches in diameter. It may also contain bones, hair, or other prey items.
- Howling: Wolves are known for howling, which they use to communicate with other pack members. If you hear a wolf howl, chances are there are more nearby. A wolf howl can be heard up to two miles away, so it’s usually a good indicator that one (or some) are close by.
- Dead livestock: If you come across dead livestock, it’s possible a wolf is in the area.
If you’re hiking in wolf county, make sure to be aware of your surroundings, travel in groups, and avoid hiking during the nighttime hours when wolves are most active.
Do Wolves Attack Humans?
As I said earlier, wolves are generally shy animals that will avoid humans if they can.
And unless you’re in Alaska or Canada, the likelihood of coming across a wolf in the wild is pretty slim.
With that being said, there have been instances where wolves have attacked humans, and a few of these attacks have been fatal.
Generally, it’s going to be the same case as most other territorial animals. If a wolf feels threatened or cornered, it may attack.
Wolves typically go for the neck or back of the head, but they will also go for your face and throat if given the opportunity.
Children are more likely to be attacked by wolves than adults simply because they’re smaller and not as intimidating.
What to Do if You’re Attacked by a Wolf
If you are attacked by a wolf, the best thing you can do is fight back.
Due to their size, wolves are easier to deter when it comes to a one-on-one confrontation. (Don’t get this confused. Wolves are still very dangerous; this is in relation to other, larger wildlife you’ll encounter.)
So, if you find yourself in a situation where a wolf is attacking, here are a few things you can do:
- Use bear spray: Bear spray is basically pepper spray on steroids. It’s made to deter bears, but it will also work on wolves.
- Fight back: Use whatever you have to fight back. Whether it’s a rock, stick, or your bare hands, do whatever it takes to defend yourself.
Wolves are gorgeously majestic creatures, but they’re also very dangerous if provoked or they feel threatened.
If you find yourself in wolf country, make sure to take the necessary precautions to avoid an encounter. And if you do encounter a wolf, make sure to stay calm and follow the tips listed above.