Necropsy on wolf shows no evidence it was eating human food

Posted: Monday, May 08, 2000

YAKUTAT (AP) -- A necropsy on a wolf that attacked a boy at a logging camp near Yakutat provides no evidence the animal was eating human food.

Concerns arose following the April 26 attack on 6-year-old John Stenglein that perhaps the animal was hanging around the logging camp because it was being fed or getting into garbage.

If that was the case it would explain why the wolf apparently had little fear of humans and had been seen near the Icy Bay camp for two years, biologist and wolf experts said.

A necropsy performed last week, however, showed no signs of human food in the wolf's stomach. There was what appeared to be cartilage and two types of fine animal fur, possibly from a moose or deer and a beaver, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Mark McNay in Fairbanks.

''Although not specifically identified, (the stomach contents) are of animal origin,'' he said, reading from the necropsy report prepared by a veterinarian with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The boy was bitten three times, one in his back and two on the buttocks. He was flown to Yakutat, where he was treated at the local clinic. Later tests showed the wolf did not have rabies.

Overall, the 4-year-old wolf was in ''excellent condition'' with good teeth and healthy deposits of fat around its organs, the necropsy showed.

Some of the wolf's kidney and brain tissue have been sent off to test for canine distemper and any other problems. All the organs are in deep freeze in case further testing is needed.

The wolf might have eaten at least some human food in the past but probably not much, according to Phil Mooney, a Fish and Game habitat biologist who has spent years working in Icy Bay and had seen the wolf near the camp.

People in the logging camps know better, he said. In the camp where the attack occurred, bears used to raid outside freezers full of fish and even walk into trailers. The freezers have been removed and garbage is burned daily in an incinerator two miles from camp.

Retired Forest Service biologist and former Alaska Board of Game member Vic Van Ballenberghe said the incident may help biologists and wildlife managers understand how and why wolves can become a threat to people.

If it turns out that the wolf had been fed and was habituated, the incident would fit better with five recent wolf attacks in Canada's Algonquin Provincial Park. There, seemingly unafraid wolves have attacked people.

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