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Predators That Kill Humans: Myth, Reality, Context and the Politics of Wolf Attacks on People

  • John D. C. LinnellEmail author
  • Julien Alleau

Abstract

Seventeen species of large mammalian carnivore have been documented to kill people, although of these only five or six seem to do it on a regular basis. Predatory attacks on humans are generally rare, which combined with very variable and inconsistent reporting makes it hard to identify the mechanisms and patterns explaining spatial and temporal variation in attacks. In contrast to other species, the extent of wolf attacks on people has been subject to intense controversy in recent decades. Competing myths have been advanced by advocates and opponents of wolves, and the issue has become politically intertwined with a diversity of social conflicts associated with the changing nature of rural life and wildlife conservation in general. Examination of both the historical record and recent reports provides a massive body of evidence that wolves have been involved in many cases of attacks on humans. Although many of these cases are linked with rabid wolves, there is also plenty of evidence of recurring cases of predatory attacks. Because these have been associated with a special set of environmental circumstances (absence of wild prey, heavily modified landscapes, high density of humans engaged in vulnerable activities) that are no longer present in most areas the risks of wolf attacks are currently very low in most of wolf distribution. An emerging situation in North America and Europe concerns the appearance of fearless and habituated wolves, which requires careful study to develop appropriate threat assessments, mitigation measures and reaction responses.

Keywords

Man-eating Rabies Wolves Canis lupus Attacks on humans 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author was financed by the Research Council of Norway and the Norwegian Environment Agency during the production of this chapter.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian Institute for Nature ResearchTrondheimNorway

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