Many people wonder, as they go camping, or enjoying a day in a national park; whether or not they should worry about wolves. Are humans a natural sort of prey for wolves, or do wolves fear people, and try to stay away from them?
In truth, the answer is not so cut and dry. Should people fear wolves every time they adventure into a wooded area? No, definitely not.
Should people respect wolves, and come to understanding about their nature and place in the world? Yes, always.
First, let's take a brief outlook at the infamous Wolf...
They are a part of the canidae family. The same genus that covers Bears, Raccoons, and relatives to our furry animal companions that we affectionately know as "Dogs". The first recordings of wolves, have mostly been found in mythology. Most of them were recorded as god-like beings who were immensely good luck. Some cultures saw wolves as evil and dangerous creatures, though it really wasn't until christian mythology became prevalent, that wolves really began to be feared. Even the religion's before then, that thought wolves were dangerous, had plenty of respect for them.
In general, wolf attacks are very rare, mostly because human's and wolves tend to live in two widely different habitats. Also because humans are another type of predator, who are often larger and more dangerous then wolves. At least in the wolves perspective. Which isn't wrong, since many humans carry guns or other deadly weapons. A wolf's teeth and claws are little match for fire and guns. Not to mention, most humans travel in larger packs then wolves do, giving even more reason for wolves to avoid contact with human.
In the last year alone, there has only been one major attack by a wolf reported, where a lone hiker was found dead with wolf tracks near by. Even given those circumstances, the person could have died from other means and been found by scavenging wolves. Between 2003 and 2009, a whopping 18 people were killed by wolves. Most of them were in European or Russian areas, none in north or south America. Most of the people were either alone or in an area where wolf habitats are being destroyed, lowering the prey options for wolves. Which is one of the few reasons a wolf might attack a human, if they are starving and have the choice between starving to death, or trying to take down a human or two.
Sadly, there are reasons that a wolf might attack a human. Thankfully, there are not that many reasons. Whether you are just curious, or you are headed into a woodland area and you are worried about being attacked, let's go over the reasons a wolf might attack a human.
1. Rabies or Mental Insanity
Wolves rarely contract rabies, and even less often are they mentally insane. Though on the occasion they get rabies or are naturally brain impaired, they might wander into human habitats. Increasing the chances of wolf-on-human aggression, or vice versa. A wolf that is insane, doesn't reason right, and will probably attack a lot of things it normally wouldn't. Trees, people, itself, anything will do. Though the same can be said of any other animal or human that gets rabies or becomes mentally insane.
2. Low Prey Options
Every time humans cut down more woodland, jungle or rainforest habitat, we create less room for wildlife. This especially includes wolves and their prey. Wolves are warriors and survivors, and if they have no other choice, they will add humans to their prey list. Though in most situations, they would prefer to hunt the rodents, birds, farm animals or pets that tend to be in the same areas as humans. There are some places in European and Russian countries, where the people density is so great, that wolves do attack people, though it's still very rare. Mostly due to people hunting down the wolf populations to near extinction.
3. Accidental Attacks
Most wolves grow up with a natural distrust of our species, which develops into a full blown fear when they encounter hunters or people in general. We're big, were loud and we usually carry lots of weapons with us. A wolf would rather attack a Bear instead of a person. This is a very good thing, as it keeps wolves safe and people safe. Though there has been a few occasions when a wolf has become desensitized to humans, which means that it has lost all or most of it's fear and distrust for people. These desensitized wolves can become problematic, especially once they realize that humans usually travel with food and materials for warmth. They will rummage through our things, sneak into tents, scavenge through our garbage and steal food as often as they can. There have been a few past reports where a wolf has tried to grab what it thought was a sleeping bag, or some important resource, and ended up grabbing the leg, hand or neck of a human by mistake. Though the instance of a wolf not being able to smell that a living human was inside the sleeping bag, suggests that the wolf was probably at least slightly insane, or may have had a genetic defect that didn't allow it the clarity of smelling living creatures. Which gives more of an explanation as to why they are scavenging through human items in the first place.
4. Mother/Pack Defending Pups
Usually, a human can detect an area where they shouldn't camp or hike near. Though there are the occasional humans that happen to put themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, and park their camp or picnic near a wolf den. A mother wolf would likely try to move her pups if they were old enough to be moved, and the humans were far enough away not to notice. Though with dwindling land, wolves have been prone to protecting their dens at all costs. Any human, or any other predator are found near a wolf den with small pups, is seen as a threat that must been gotten rid of.
5. Easy Meal
Put yourself in a wolves perspective. If they found one small baby dear, off by itself, well away from it's protective mother or herd... Wouldn't you consider that an easy lunch? Consider a new situation. A human child, between the ages of 4 and 8 years old, wonders off to find a place to explore or go to the bathroom. Say they wonder more then ten or fifteen minutes away from their parents or group, and a small pack of young wolves comes across the lone child. If the circumstances are right, this is an easy meal for a few wolves. In their eyes, not only is an unprotected human child a good meal, but it's also a smart move on behalf of their species. One less predator to attack them or hunt their prey.
Even with all this in mind, it is very rare that a human might get attacked by a wild wolf or pack of them. As suggested above, it's really not worth it for a wolf to attack a human. It's an insane move, since even if the wolf manages to find dinner in one human, they will have numbered days until the family of the dead human hunts them down through various means. It takes an insane wolf to do an insane thing. A person is more likely to get attacked by their hybrid-wolf pet, then by a wild wolf. More often then not, wolves hunt alone. Meaning that your chances of meeting a pack together, are even less. All wolves, whether in a pack or alone, would prefer to avoid you, and live to hunt another day. Which is why it's rare for any random person to see a healthy wild wolf.
Just in case, it's always a reasonable idea to make sure not to leave open food outside, or garbage un-contained in a secure location away from your home or tent. As well as remembering to poop somewhat near your camp, and burring it very well after. If you do find yourself encountering a wolf who does not seem afraid of you, or whom is already showing high aggression, you'll want to get away from it quickly or try to act as big and loud as possible.