I talked recently with a man who had relocated from Michigan to Gardiner, Montana, a small town just outside of Yellowstone. Given that both states have wolves, we discussed them. The man, large enough to be a pro-football lineman, said he often hunted for deer in Michigan's wolf country. He recalled one day when he was sitting in his blind and heard wolves howl. He felt a tingle of fear. As darkness fell and he made his way to the car, the wolves howled again, too close for his comfort. As he hustled through the woods, he had a pistol in one hand and a rifle in the other. His headlamp beam moved like the light on a prison guard tower, as his head swiveled left to right.
"I'll tell you, the hairs were up on the back of my neck, and I was ready to blast them wolves if it came to that," he said.
His fear was obvious and real. But was it realistic? A few days later, I once again searched for an answer to the question of whether we should fear wolves.
I found two documented fatal - and tragic - attacks by wolves in North America. On Nov. 8, 2005, searchers recovered the body of a man in northern Saskatchewan. Two years later a jury found that he had died from "injuries consistent with a wolf attack." An investigator suspected that the attacking wolves might have lost their fear of people after eating at open garbage dumps. Luigi Boitani, wolf expert, expressed a different opinion in a 2015 interview with Spiegel. He said that the man had apparently been feeding the wolves regularly and that this could cause them to lose their fear of people.