In the new Liam Neeson movie The Grey, a group of oil rig workers must defend themselves from a pack of vicious wolves after their plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness. In a scene from the trailer, Neeson’s character threatens one of the animals by brandishing two fistfuls of broken miniature liquor bottles at it. What’s the best way to fend off aggressive wolves?
Intimidate them. Yelling, throwing sticks or stones, waving your arms, and generally making yourself look as big and scary as possible can deter predatory wolves, which tend to become submissive when other animals demonstrate dominance. Short or immobilized people and children are more vulnerable to wolf attacks than tall, able-bodied adults, since wolves are more likely to see them as potential prey. (Naturally, such people are also less able to make themselves look big and scary.) If you have weapons like pepper spray or a gun, you can certainly scare away or kill a wolf, but counterattacking with a handful of broken bottles might backfire. Though glass knuckles might drive off a wolf by causing it pain, they could also break and cut your hand, making it harder for you to defend yourself.
If you can’t scare a wolf away and you don’t have a viable weapon, you might try to wrestle it into submission. One Canadian man, Fred Desjarlais, dissuaded an attacking wolf by putting it into a headlock; another, Diamond Jenness, reportedly choked a snarling wolf with his hands. Some biologists recommend making a fist with your hand and shoving it down the wolf’s throat to prevent it from biting; if a wolf can’t breathe, it will probably decide that attacking you isn’t worth the effort. Climbing a tree could also compel a wolf to leave you alone, but never run away; doing so could trigger a wolf’s predatory instinct to chase you.
Unfortunately, none of these general rules about wolf attacks holds true if a wolf has rabies. Rabid wolves tend to attack ferociously, indiscriminately, and without provocation; the most obvious symptoms of rabies in wolves include foaming at the mouth and a total lack of fear. If you’re being attacked by a rabid wolf, your best bet is a shotgun and good aim.
Wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare. A government report [PDF] published in 2002 found there have been 49 well-documented cases of aggression toward humans by wolves in Alaska and Canada since 1942. More recent years have seen a couple of wolf-related deaths: In 2005, a man was mauled by four wolves in Saskatchewan, possibly after giving them food, and in 2010, a woman was killed by two or more wolves in Alaska while jogging.
Got a question about today’s news? Ask the Explainer.
Explainer thanks Jess Edberg of the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minn.; Valerius Geist of the University of Calgary; Maggie Howell of the Wolf Conservation Center; and Dave Mech of the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Minnesota.
* * *
Good news: After years of hiding out in the Explainatorium like a banished superhero, answering submitted questions from deep inside the fortress, the Explainer has decided to soar out into the world, pen in hand, to spread peace and understanding among the column's faithful.
And so we present a new, occasional feature on Slate: the Explainer House Call. Do you have a family disagreement over some fact or pseudo-fact? Are you stuck in an endless argument with an annoying co-worker or a friend? Have your attempts to Google your way out of it only pushed you both into the filter bubbles of the Internet? Worry no more: The Explainer will be your arbiter and your savior, an avenging angel of argument, slinging thunderbolts of pure reason and drenching your squabbles in the heavy rain of explanation.
How does one qualify for this personal Explainer service? To get a house call, and have the Explainer resolve your special beef in Slate, you must first gain the support of your peers. What factual matter has been driving you and your friend/spouse/co-worker bonkers in recent weeks? Post a short summary on our Facebook page or Tweet us the question with the hashtag #ExplainerHouseCall. Then we'll ask the members of Explainer Nation to vote for the dispute that's most deserving of the Explainer's attention.
(Winners: Please note that the Explainer will not actually visit your house.)
TODAY IN SLATE
Meet the New Bosses
How the Republicans would run the Senate.
The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.
Why all cracker names sound alike.
Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom
This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059
- Protesters Take to the Streets to Sound Alarm on Climate Change in New York, Across the World
- Knife-Carrying White House Jumper is Vet who Feared “Atmosphere Was Collapsing”
- North Korea: American Sentenced to Hard Labor Wanted to Become “Second Snowden”
- Almost One in Four Americans Support Idea of Splitting From the Union
Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?
A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.