“The overall message is that most people in North American and Europe can live very close to wolves and be perfectly OK in 99.99999% of cases,” said John Linnell, senior research scientist with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and the lead author on the recent report. “But it’s never 100%. Things can happen. We need to be prepared for that.”

It’s hard to imagine a more polarizing species than wolves, revered by some, demonized by others and driven to the edge of extinction in many areas. As wolf populations began to rebound in the 1990s in both Europe and North America, two opposing pictures of the species emerged, Linnell said. On the one hand, historical records and stories on both continents suggested a history of wolf attacks. On the other, 20th century research found that modern attacks were extremely rare. They found reliable reports between 2002 and 2020 involving 489 victims of wolf attacks. Most of those related to rabid wolves, though. Forty-two others were attacked after provoking wolves, three of them fatally. About 13% of the attacks appeared predatory in nature, though. Sixty-seven people were victims of predatory attacks, including nine who were killed. 

The findings suggest people should view wolves much as Americans view black bears (Ursus americanus) or even the neighbor’s dog —animals that rarely pose a threat but can be dangerous, Linnell said.

“Wolves are wildlife,” he said. “They’re wild animals. Not devils. Not saints.” condensed from The Wildlife Society News