The wolf vs human rivalry is an age-old history marred by territorial conflict and violence. Historically, humans have been hunting and killing wolves for their skin, sports, and to protect themselves and their livestock from these ferocious hunters.
The wolf has been on the losing end of this rivalry, a struggle that has led to a gradual decline in the population of their species.
A surge in the human population has led to a significant reduction in natural forest cover, forcing wolves to live close to humans.
This proximity, coupled with dwindling hunting grounds and game, has only intensified this conflict.
Wolf VS Human: Genesis Of The Conflict
Humans have historically viewed wolves as threats to both their safety and livestock. To safeguard their livelihoods, humans engaged in aggressive wolf-hunting practices.
This violence against wolves has been perpetrated for centuries, and its first roots were planted during the 16th century.
In 1630, immigrants in Massachusetts Bay enacted laws that rewarded bounties to any settler who hunted and killed a wolf.
This trend continued for centuries and peaked between the 1800s and 1900s, with the public and local governments participating in the wolf slaughter.
By the 1950s, the wolf population in the US had drastically reduced, necessitating the protection of grey wolves by the Endangered Species Act in 1973.
Can an Unarmed Human Defeat a Wolf?
Wolves are ferocious hunters known to take down some of the biggest wild game with ease. They leverage their size, speed, agility, and strength to hunt for prey intelligently. Like most canines, wolves are social creatures and almost always hunt in packs.
Humans, on the other hand, are the world’s deadliest hunters, thanks to their intelligence. As opposed to relying on sheer brawn, humans have perfected the art of crafting powerful hunting tools to hunt any animal. Who do you think would win in a one-on-one fight?
When it comes to a physical brawl between the two, the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the wolf. Their sharp claws and teeth are perfectly designed to take down prey. This, together with their massive sizes, agility, and power, makes them formidable opponents in a physical confrontation.
However, there are some incidences where humans have triumphed over wolves in a brawl. In August 2018, Noah Graham, a 16-year-old teen in Minnesota, was attacked by a wolf while on a camping trip. The teen was sleeping outside his camping tent when this incident happened.
The wolf stealthily stalked and pounced on him, firmly biting him on the head. Using his bare hand, Noah wrestled the wolf and managed to remove his head out of the wolf’s jaws.
The bit left him with a 4-inch gash and deep scratches. It was later discovered that the aggressive wolf had an unusual jaw that made hunting difficult.
Although wolf vs human physical confrontations are rare, several incidents have been recorded. According to wolf.org, there were 489 wolf attack victims worldwide between 2002 and 2020.
A considerable majority of these attacks, 380, were filed as rabid attacks, while 67 were predatory attacks. Forty-two of these cases were recorded as either provoked defense or attack.
Contrast Between Wolf and Human
Whenever we think of wolves, our minds naturally associate them and their abilities with that of our domesticated dogs due to their genetic kinship. However, wolves are bigger and more powerful than our dogs, making them deadlier.
To fully appreciate this contrast, let us compare wolves to humans by examining their differences in size, weight, strength, and speed.
1. Size & Weight
Humans are bigger than wolves in size. The size of wolves can vary depending on the animal breed and geographic location.
However, wolves are typically larger than most dog breeds and have an average shoulder height of about 26-32 inches.
The largest wolf subspecies is the gray wolf, or Mackenzie Valley wolf. These wolves can grow to shoulder heights of more than 32 inches and weigh between 45 and 79 kilograms.
In contrast, humans are taller, with some exceptions. The average height for adult males is around 5 feet 7 inches, and for adult females, it’s about 5 feet 3 inches.
Wolves also weigh less than humans, weighing 18 to 79 kilograms, depending on the subspecies and diet.
On the other hand, humans’ weight varies considerably, with an average adult human weighing between 56 to 113 kilograms.
Regarding pound-for-pound strength, wolves are considered to be stronger than an average human. These canines are known for their incredible strength, establishing them as apex predators. Their strength is an adaption that enables them to hunt, carry heavy prey, and fight whenever necessary.
One of the notable strength features of wolves is their bite force. They have powerful jaws with a bite force estimated to be around 1,500 psi! With such a bite force, it is almost impossible for prey to break away from a wolf’s jaw grip.
When it comes to long-distance running, wolves are way faster than humans. They can run at an average speed of 20 to 40 mph, with variations among subspecies. This speed allows them to pursue and catch prey when hunting.
On the other hand, humans have a significantly slower running speed, ranging from 5 to 12 mph for short to moderate distances.
The fastest human sprinting speed recorded is approximately 27.8 mph, by Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest sprinter.
How To Survive A Wolf Attack
Wolves are large predatory animals with the strength and agility to hurt and kill humans. While wolf attacks are not common, it is crucial to have working knowledge of how to deal with such an attack. So, how do you defend yourself against a wolf attack?
Avoid Wolf encounters
The best way to stay safe from wolf attacks is by avoiding wolf encounters. Avoid areas where wolves have been spotted to reduce chances of bumping into them.
If you spot a wolf before it sees you walk away stealthily to avoid a confrontation. While wolves hardly show any aggression to humans, they can attack if they feel cornered.
You can also band with friends as you walk through marked areas to stay safe. In a group, make a circle with your back facing inward. This formation will protect you from any surprise attacks.
If you encounter a wolf, try to remain as calm as possible. Do not panic, as sudden movements or loud noises may provoke the wolf to attack.
It is also essential to maintain eye contact as you back away from the wolf. You should never turn your back to the wolf, as this will guarantee a chase down.
Like dogs, wolves perceive running as an act of weakness and submission. The moment you start running, the wolf’s hunting instincts will kick in, and it will chase you down.
Considering that they are faster than humans, you will likely be hurt. Instead, maintain a steady, slow pace while backing away from the wolf.
Stand Your Ground and Be Firm
When a wolf approaches you, stand your ground and make yourself seem bigger. You can easily achieve this by raising your arms and holding your jacket or backpack above your head while keeping eye contact.
If the wolf keeps moving toward you, shout at it assertively without turning your back. The intention is to scare the wolf away and not to provoke it into a fight.
You should, therefore, limit your aggression and do so in a manner that won’t make the wolf feel cornered.
You should swiftly fight back and defend yourself if the attack escalates. You can use an air horn, bear spray, sticks, or stones to hit the wolf.
Your chances of surviving the attack will almost double if you prevent the wolf from attacking you from behind.
Shield your back by standing in front of a tree or a rock to force the wolf to remain in front of you where you can defend yourself.
Hiding or curling in a fetal position will not deter the wolf, so your best chance of surviving is putting up a spirited defense. It is vital to protect your neck at all times because a bite on that region will be fatal.
If you manage to fend off the attack, you should look for a safe, enclosed spot to hide and get help. Walk away from the scene without turning your back to the wolf, which might attract a second attempt.
The controversial wolf vs human conflict has, over the years, attracted a lot of traction. While some people fight for the rights and protection of these animals, others consider them a nuisance threat to their livelihoods.
The decline in natural forest cover will continue to strain this conflict as the two species fight for territory. Without aggressive intervention measures, this prolonged conflict could lead to the extinction of wolves.