Minn. teen recovers after unprovoked wolf attack

8:23 AM, Aug 27, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - A 16-year-old who fought off an apparent wolf attack in northern Minnesota says he won't be sleeping outside anytime soon.

Noah Graham of Solway was camping on Lake Winnibigoshish with five of his friends last weekend. He tells The Pioneer of Bemidji he was talking with his girlfriend just before the animal chomped the back of his head early Saturday.

Graham says he had to reach back and jerk his head out of its mouth. He says he kicked and screamed at it, but it left only reluctantly. His girlfriend fled to her Jeep while two others in their group slept through all the screaming, kicking and fighting.

The Department of Natural Resources think it's the first documented serious wolf attack on a human in Minnesota.

"It sounds like he was in a head-down type of position," said DNR Regional Manager Tom Provost. "He did not hear anything, and the first indication was when he had jaws clamped down on his head."

The teen suffered multiple puncture wounds and a laceration about 4 inches long. The wolf ran into the woods after the boy kicked it away.

After receiving local first aid Graham was taken to a Bemidji hospital. The wound required multiple staples to close, but was not life-threatening.

"The forest service is a very close partner in this, and they do want to protect the interest of the public, so (the campground) will remain closed until ... we believe and are comfortable that we have the offending animal out of the area," Provost said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services was called to help locate the wolf. They set up traps in the area on Sunday night. A wolf with markings that matched witness descriptions was found in one of the traps on Monday morning.

"It was trapped in an area where it was likely habituated to humans and the ability to grab easy food, and (that's) not normal for wolf behavior," Provost said.

The 75-pound gray wolf was killed. It is being tested for rabies at the University of Minnesota veterinary diagnostic lab. The lab will also attempt to match DNA from the wolf to the victim's wounds to verify that is the wolf that attacked the teen.

Provost says that the wolf was of average size and weight, but that its jaw was misaligned. He said that it's possible that hunting for food would have been difficult.

The DNR says a serious injury or fatal attack on a human had never been documented in Minnesota before.

"There were no other wolves witnessed throughout this event," Provost said. "Just by its behavior and the fact that it was letting itself be seen that close to humans and actually approaching humans, it is incredibly abnormal behavior and I would not suspect that there is other wolves involved."

The only two recorded wolf attack fatalities in North America in the last decade were in northern Canada and Alaska.

(Copyright 2013 KARE 11 and The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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