Yellowstone National Park officials investigate hiker's encounter with wolf

2012-06-13T22:00:00Z 2012-06-13T22:01:38Z Yellowstone National Park officials investigate hiker's encounter with wolfBy MARTIN KIDSTON Billings Gazette missoulian.com
June 13, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

CODY, Wyo. – A man hiking in Yellowstone National Park encountered a female wolf outside a den and sprayed the animal with pepper spray before fleeing the scene.

Yellowstone Park officials confirmed Tuesday that the man, whose name was not released, encountered a female wolf in the Hayden Valley.

While park officials continue to investigate the incident, a spokesman said that the man was hiking when he came across the wolf outside a den.

“There was no wolf attack,” park spokesman Al Nash said. “However, a visitor apparently had some sort of encounter with a wolf. The wolf did not attack him. He was not injured by a wolf.”

The wolf allegedly gave a warning bark, which the man interpreted as a growl. He sprayed the wolf with pepper spray – a deterrent most often used in bear encounters. The hiker heard the wolf yipping as a result of the spray as he fled.

Park officials said the man jumped into the Yellowstone River, believing the wolf might pursue him. He apparently lost his backpack as he was washed downriver and was treated by park rangers for hypothermia.

“This gentleman encountered a wolf, just as many visitors encounter bears, elk or sheep,” said Nash. “I don’t know what his decision-making process was. He chose to get away from the animal. Why he chose to go into the Yellowstone River, I just don’t know.”

Yellowstone wolf biologist Doug Smith and Dave Hallac, who oversees Yellowstone’s natural and cultural resources, could not be reached for comment.

Wolves are commonly seen in the Hayden and Lamar valley areas of the park. Wildlife spotters often watch from surrounding vantage points as the animals cross the Hayden Valley’s sweeping meadows.

Versions of the latest story have already circulated on an unofficial Facebook page dedicated to Yellowstone National Park. But park officials said the investigation continues and details at this point are few.

“We have human-animal encounters all the time in the park,” said park spokesman Dan Hottle. “We have some kind of encounter on a daily basis, and we have to rely on the signage and information we put out on wildlife safety. The other 50 percent has to come from the park visitor.”

Park officials said trails are often posted as being closed in areas of known wolf dens or high bear activity. It’s unknown if the man was on a trail posted as closed, or if he was on a trail at all.

“We remind people to maintain the minimum distances to wildlife, which is 25 yards from most big animals, and 100 yards from bears and wolves,” Nash said. “The smart thing to do, if you feel an animal is responding to your presence, is to increase the distance to that animal.”

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(45) Comments

  1. momissouri
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    momissouri - October 28, 2012 12:20 pm
    I Love a man with pepper spray.
  2. momissouri
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    momissouri - October 28, 2012 12:13 pm
    This sounds like somebody I would like to date in the near future. I really like a man with pepper spray.
  3. onemontana
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    onemontana - June 17, 2012 1:31 pm
    Natural selection.... the park rangers should have let the person figure out how to treat his own hypothermia.
  4. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - June 16, 2012 9:21 pm
    I'd much rather be a leader than a follower that believes takes everything the President or any "higher up" has to say as gospel. You must be very insecure. You have a tendancy to make attempts to rally others to side with you. Safety in numbers they say.


    Again....don't believe everything you read in a newspaper and surely don't believe everything Yellowstones so called wolf and grizzly experts say without digging a little deeper.....unless you are a follower.
  5. onetwopunch
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    onetwopunch - June 16, 2012 8:36 am
    Little Sissies! wolves are more afraid of you then you are of them (unless your a Montana outfitter)..hahaha.
  6. sofaking tired of the GOP
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    sofaking tired of the GOP - June 15, 2012 11:14 pm
    And cody makes a great point, we spend more "controlling" wolves than the loss of livestock.
  7. sofaking tired of the GOP
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    sofaking tired of the GOP - June 15, 2012 11:03 pm
    It probably didn't mention it in the first report because the biologists probably didn't admit to taking the signs down early immediately. The report said a man was mauled to death which was true.
    All this article says is that a man encountered a wolf, sprayed it and then ran away and into the river. That's what happened. It doesn't say if it was the guys fault or an overly aggressive wolf. Even if it was stalking him, that's what predators do and what you should expect. No big conspiracy here.
  8. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - June 15, 2012 8:17 pm
    Not a big cover up at all, I don't know that. All I know of this case is what was printed in this article. (Based on what Ranger Rick said) What I do know is Ranger Rick has stretched the truth and lied in the past. The referrence to the Evert case was an example. Do you recall the first newspaper article that came out following the mauling? No mention of Biologists taking down signs early and leaving the scene before they knew the boar was stable and mobile. First report just painted out Mr Evert to be a big dope. Go figure. Naive, naive, naive many of you are.


    Don't get me wrong. The scenario with this hiker and a wolf may have unfolded just like the article says. Again, I don't know that. I'm guessing you do?
  9. sofaking tired of the GOP
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    sofaking tired of the GOP - June 15, 2012 1:28 pm
    So you are suggesting the wolf was stalking the guy and this is a big cover up? I'm pretty sure the guy would be making a fuss about it and not letting the "conspiracy" stand if that was the case. And what does the Evert mauling have to do with any of this? The biologists admitted they took the signs down early. Where has personal responsibility gone? You go into the woods with grizzlies and wolves be prepared for an encounter.
  10. reality22f
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    reality22f - June 15, 2012 12:00 am
    Here is are better perspectives on the safety of Dogs vs. Wolves. Dr David Mech says only one in six wolf kills are confirmed as wolf kills but the USDA says it is more like one in 20!
    # of livestock and pets killed and maimed and confirmed for in 2011 per the DNR = 145
    Estimated # of livestock and pets killed and maimed per Dr David Mech where only (1 in 6) are confirmed = 870 (6 x 145)
    Estimated # of livestock and pets killed and maimed per USDA where only (1 in 20) are confirmed = 2900 (20 x 145)
    Don't give us your dogs are more dangerous to cattle than wolves junk...... if the 750,000 dogs in the state of Wisconsin killed livestock and pets at rates of 145 to 870 to 2900 per 800 wolves the dogs in Wisconsin would kill from 135,000 to 815,000 to 2.7 million livestock and pets every year!

    There are ~ 100000 wolves in North America. ~22,000 of them live remotely close to humans. In the last 5 years 2 people have been killed by the 22000 wolves which live remotely close to humans. If the 60 million US dogs (that live in our houses and neighborhood) killed at a rate of 2 per 22000 we would see 5455 died people every 5 years or 109,100 deaths per century.
  11. reality22f
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    reality22f - June 14, 2012 10:57 pm
    Roger, don't forget that 51-year-old Dale Hart of Black River Falls was killed by a wolf last June. http://www.fox11online.com/dpp/news/wisconsin/motorcyclist-killed-in-crash-with-wolf
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    COMMON SENSE - June 14, 2012 9:01 pm
    LOL...Well said!
  13. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - June 14, 2012 7:34 pm
    codycowboy.....You are getting the wool pulled over your eyes. Don't be so naive. Take what Park "officials" say with a grain of salt. Do you also believe that Yolanda Evert has no grounds to sue over her husbands fatal mauling? There is more to these stories than what you read in the newspaper.
  14. naps
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    naps - June 14, 2012 7:15 pm
    Sends like a SNL skit.
  15. Alan Johnson
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    Alan Johnson - June 14, 2012 6:26 pm
    I'll give the guy credit for using pepper spray and not a gun. Otherwise I think many here are too critical when they really know no facts. Up close and personal contact with a wolf is not exactly an everyday thing. Perhaps the jump in the river was out of panic. Are any of you immune from panic? Panic can cause people to do a lot of things that don't make sense after the fact. Stop being self-righteous and give this guy a break.
  16. richardr11
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    richardr11 - June 14, 2012 3:40 pm
    Wow, what an extremely short list. How many people have hunters killed Roger? Hunters have killed more people than wolves in recent times.
  17. Josh
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    Josh - June 14, 2012 12:46 pm
    Everything under the sun is "at least potentially dangerous."
  18. Kahlotus
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    Kahlotus - June 14, 2012 12:08 pm
    What's a bunch of people? Is it some astronomically huge number like the handful of names in North America that you listed?

    Bees kill 50 people on average each year in the US,
    Pet dog kill 30,
    Horses kill 20,
    Deer cause 130 fatalities each year.

  19. Mountainman92
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    Mountainman92 - June 14, 2012 12:03 pm
    I'd figure the dog-brains would be happy the guy didnt shoot the thing. It's pepper-spray, not battery acid. If you are a bleeding heart for the suffering this poor flesh-eating canine went through, why not start by telling 'big brother' to stop using the stuff on american citizens when we want to lawfully protest something. Maybe the guy should have used a beanbag gun, those seem humane, only slight chance of concussion or death. Hey, he coulda stuck a snack in it, so after the wolf is done crying it has something nice to eat. You guys pick this dude apart like he's some looney criminal. He gave the dog a little seasoning and jumped into the river, probably to lose the scent and cover some ground quick...eaten by pissed off wolf, or chance a float.... you guys are calling him dumb? You are people, not wolves, start acting like it eh? What ever happened to "hey man, you made it, glad to see you're alright" ~fricken city people. We should round up all your little pets and ship em to your front door. I think City Sewer Rats are cute and mistreated. I think we should punch anyone in the face that tries to exterminate them. I mean, come on. Do you really need the box of crackers the cute little guy is laying babies in?
  20. Kahlotus
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    Kahlotus - June 14, 2012 11:59 am
    Every year hunters shoot 1,000 people in the US and Canada. 100 result in death. Hunters have killed humans before and they will again. Just a matter of time.
  21. Brigham
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    Brigham - June 14, 2012 10:18 am
    Some people lose any ability to reason when it comes to wolves. They simply ignore reality and wet the bed with fears from Grimm Brothers. It's absurd.

    The Missoulian should have included this nutjob's name and YNP Rangers should have fined him for harassing wildlife and littering the Yellowstone.
  22. digger
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    digger - June 14, 2012 9:39 am
    So what you are saying is that all tourists should be banned from national parks? I feel that way about Montana.
  23. DoItRight
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    DoItRight - June 14, 2012 8:59 am
    Who was your villain before wolves?
    That's right. It was those nasty bald eagles carrying off sheep and small children.

    Did reality22f read too many fairy tales growing up??
  24. nwwt
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    nwwt - June 14, 2012 8:57 am
    If I were to get killed by a wolf or bear, then so be it. The world goes on, and at least I'm one human who is part of the food web. People die. Some on highways, some in hospitals: it's never pretty, and the results are the same regardless. Live your life while you have it.
  25. DoItRight
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    DoItRight - June 14, 2012 8:55 am
    People fall off cliffs in national parks and wilderness areas too.

    We should fence all drops of more than 3 feet, starting with the Grand Canyon and then moving to Glacier and Yellowstone.

    This would not only save lives, but also keep the wolves on "their side" and employee lots of fence builders.

    This alone could bring back the economy.
    Maybe you are on to something here...
  26. JS
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    JS - June 14, 2012 8:52 am
    If he had enough time and sense to grab his spray and unload it on the wolf then he had enough time and sense to at least attempt backing up and getting away from the wolf first, especially since it sounds like the wolf never even came at him. Sounds like a novice who probably does not have much experience in the woods, alone! If you're hiking in the woods in wolf/bear/puma country you had better be on guard and ready for an encounter like this at all times. Sounds like this guy had his guard down!
  27. codycowboy
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    codycowboy - June 14, 2012 8:35 am
    Bittersweet, that Griz situation last summer in the park, the first death was ruled appropriate behavior as the couple that approached the sow yelled and ran away. The husband was killed, the wife played dead after running away and the bear picked her up by the pack back and then left her alone without injuring her. The second death was not proven to be Bear caused or conclusively linked to any particular Bear. The sow that USFWS killed (and whose cub was orphaned and now is living in captivity) was one of six bears identified as being in the vicinity of the corpse. There was also a bison carcass nearby which is partially what attracted the other bears. They never did determine what killed that guy for sure. He may have died by other causes and was partially eaten by some or all of the six Bears who were trapped and DNA samples were taken. USFWS and WS in particular need to stop using death as their primary tool for wild life management on public lands. WS spends over $1,000,000 every year to kill animals. It spends more than three times what ranchers loose in livestock in order to kill just Wolves. That isn't a practical use of taxpayer dollars. That money should spent to deter predators, not kill them.
  28. richardr11
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    richardr11 - June 14, 2012 7:41 am
    If that does happen, let's hope the wolves eat a few wolf hunters.
  29. Roger
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    Roger - June 14, 2012 7:32 am
    You are wrong. Here's a partial list of people killed by wolves in North America:

    Candice Bermer - 2010 - Alaska
    Kenton Carnegie - 2005 - Saskatchewan
    Patricia Wyman - 1996 - Ontario
    Trapper and two natives - 1922 - Ontario
    Ben Cochrum - 1922 - Manitoba
    James Smith - 1910 - Missouri

    Also, a bunch of people have been killed Russia, India, Afghanistan. As large predators, wolves will never be totally non-dangerous to humans.
  30. Roger
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    Roger - June 14, 2012 7:05 am
    I'm not aware of any rule that prohibits hiking alone or off-trail. At least he had sense enough to carry bear spray, Ms. Cheesy.
  31. Roger
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    Roger - June 14, 2012 7:02 am
    The wolf was close enough to be sprayed with bear spray, so obviously it was at least potentially dangerous. He probably panicked and was not thinking rationally when he jumped into the river.
  32. T-Bone7
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    T-Bone7 - June 14, 2012 6:29 am
    Sounds to me like the hiker was a little paranoid. Though I have heard of people being threatened and attacked by wolves, it sounds like this knucklehead just panicked, jumping in the river after spraying the wolf?? Brilliant! And Richard, banning dumb people from the parks isn't logical, businesses would go broke.
    Report Abuse
    COMMON SENSE - June 14, 2012 3:07 am
    This hiker had the good sense to use a non lethal deterrent as opposed to just shooting the wolf. What exactly makes this person 'dumb' anyway? What would you have done, faced with a threatening wolf, by yourself in the middle of nowhere? I mean aside from just standing there urinating all over yourself! You probably would have been safe, I'm sure the wolf would have taken one look at you and died laughing! Tell me something richardr11, what have you done today to justify your daily intake of oxygen? Dumb people need to banned from breathing.
  34. codycowboy
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    codycowboy - June 14, 2012 2:30 am
    Yep, Wolves do kill people (2 in the last 10 years in North America and 0 the previous 100 years). People also kill Wolves (thousands every year in North America, millions in the last 110 years). Domestic dogs kill 10 people on average every year in North America. If this was a known denning site then it should have been marked as such and no human activity should have been allowed nearby. Momma was protecting her pups, nothing wrong with that. This guy invaded her territory and she made him aware of that. What is the problem here? She got the short end of the stick (Bear stop in the face). What bad thing happened to this guy? Hopefully he had his nature experience and learned a lesson or two about hiking in the wilderness!
  35. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - June 14, 2012 12:05 am
    I don't think any of us can say if events unfolded (or didn't) as "park officials" would lead you to believe. I certainly do not feel that there is much reason to be scared of wolves (you probably have more chance of getting injured in a vehicle accident on your way to YNP) but I do find it interesting when there is encounter (Especially in a park) humans are always to blame. Apparently this gentleman was close enough that the spray was effective. Put yourself in his shoes. Thats pretty darn close. ....and the rangers were able to accurately anylize the wolves vocalizations and demeaner....hrrrrmmmmm, all through what the hiker "told them" Are these the same park officials that let a Grizzly walk after it mauled one park visitor to death, only to have it take another human life within weeks?
  36. cheese city gal
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    cheese city gal - June 13, 2012 11:58 pm
    And when dumb gets himself into trouble, look who gets the blame. Dumb didn't listen to the rules and took off on his own. Not the mother wolf's fault.
  37. Roger
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    Roger - June 13, 2012 11:55 pm
    "Supposedly" there was a woman killed in Alaska, and you don't believe it? She was murdered, and locals covered it up? That's insane - she was found mutilated with wolf tracks around her in the snow. The Alaska State Medical Examiner examined her body and determined she was killed by animal mauling.

    Another person was killed a few years ago in Saskatchewan - a young man named Kenton Carnegie.

    So although wolves don't present a lot of danger to humans, they can be deadly.
  38. Josh
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    Josh - June 13, 2012 10:44 pm
    Wow. If this is true I don't know what to say. Jumping into the Yellowstone to avoid a wolf that was fleeing after being sprayed is an interesting risk assessment to say the least. I wonder what role anti-wolf hysteria played in this person's reaction. Could it be all the demonizing of wolves skewed his understanding of the real dangers he faced?

  39. MTNATIVE1000
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    MTNATIVE1000 - June 13, 2012 10:35 pm
    Wolves have killed humans before and they will again. matter of time.
  40. c
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    c - June 13, 2012 8:08 pm
    Yep what a dummy, smart guy like you would have petted and played with the wolf. If the world could be so lucky.
  41. reality22f
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    reality22f - June 13, 2012 3:48 pm
    "never the wolf" with some people! It was very hard for you hard core wolfers to try to cover up the Candice Berner death by wolves because of the fresh snow! They tried to do the same thing with Kenton Carnegie death but a Canadian enquest shut them up! hellgatenights give it up wolves do kill people!
  42. richardr11
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    richardr11 - June 13, 2012 1:30 pm
    Dumb people need to be banned from national parks.
  43. hellgatenights
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    hellgatenights - June 13, 2012 1:22 pm
    no danger......any critter will take offense if you are intruding on her den,

    People spook to easy........when, ......I say when was the last confirmed wolf kill on a human in north America?

    Answer - Supposedly there was one in Alaska a few years ago wherein a new school teacher in a remote village was drug off into the woods while jogging. I do not believe it, I suspect foul play from the locals ans a cover up by local police (No town wants to admit a local resident killed a school teacher now do they).

    I have been stalked by cougar near yellowstone.....it went on for 45 minutes. It was not spooky, nor was I scared, but I was a bit confused at the behavior.
  44. PelosiGalore
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    PelosiGalore - June 13, 2012 1:06 pm
    Notice there are no quotes from the hiker. This is all second hand info. He stumbled upon growling female wolf protecting her den. I tend to believe the he was right to feel he was in danger. You, richard11, were not there. For you to take the little bit of informantion in this article and call this hiker "dumb" and "with no common sense" is completely ignorant.
  45. richardr11
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    richardr11 - June 13, 2012 11:51 am
    dumb hikers with no common sense.
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