In a rare and unprecedented incident, a lone wolf attacked a Minnesota teenager as he laid outside at a campground early last Saturday morning.
Officials are investigating the case of Noah Graham, 16, who reportedly suffered non-life-threatening cuts to his head and puncture wounds to his face.
"I had to reach behind me and jerk my head out of its mouth," he told the local newspaper Bemidji Pioneer of the wolf attack. "After I got up, I was kicking at it and screaming at it and it wouldn't leave. But then after awhile I got it to run away."
The Bemidji Pioneer reported that Graham needed 17 stitches to close the 11-centimeter wide gash on his head.
The attack took place on the shores of Lake Winnibigoshish in the Chippewa National Forest in northern central Minnesota. The incident is being called the first of its kind in the state.
"This is a rare occurrence," Tom Provost, enforcement manager for the Department of Natural Resources, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. The St. Paul Pioneer Press quoted Provost describing the attack as a "freak deal" and "incredibility abnormal behavior."
Provost said this was the first recorded case in Minnesota of a wild wolf attacking a human. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website reports there have been two fatal wolf attacks in North America, one in Alaska in 2010 and another in Canada in 2005.
"Wolf attacks on humans in North America are rare, and, as a result, poorly understood. Accounts of wolves killing people persist in India and in Russia and parts of central Asia," the department states. "It is a fact that when wild animals become habituated to people, they may lose their fear of humans, especially if they are fed or if they associate humans with providing food."
Wolves typically move in packs and stay away from humans. On Monday officials captured and killed a lone wolf which matched the description of the one that attacked Graham. The results of a necropsy and DNA test should reveal whether the wolf that was killed was the same one involved in the attack, according to the Bemidji Pioneer.
The dead wolf reportedly had a malaligned jaw and was missing a canine tooth, which may have hindered its ability to properly hunt, Provost told the Pioneer. He also said the the wolf may have chosen to linger around the campground where it was habituated to easy access to food.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there are an estimated 2,200 wolves in the state.
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