When camping around the areas where wolf populations live, there are several things that you need to know for your own safety. You should not be too afraid to camp where you want, but a healthy respect for wolves and a little caution will keep you happy and free from harm.
We get questions about camping in wolf country all the time and have decided to answer your most common questions. We have spent many hours researching these questions for you and really hope it helps give you a piece of mind.
Here’s what we will cover.
- Which states do wolves live in?
- How many wolves live in North America?
- Are wolves afraid of humans?
- What are wolves afraid of?
- How dangerous are wolves to humans?
- What is the most dangerous breed of wolf?
- Do wolves carry rabies?
- What are the signs of rabies in a wolf?
- What do you do if you are confronted by a wolf?
- What tools can you use to ward off wolves?
- What do you do if you see a wolf while hiking?
- What are the chances of being attacked by a wolf?
- What do you do if attacked by a wolf?
- What do you do if bitten by a wolf?
- Do wolves attack at night?
- What is the best way to avoid getting attacked by a wolf?
- Do wolves attack dogs?
- Can you outrun a wolf?
- How to keep wolves away from your campsite?
- What do you do if you see an injured wolf?
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Which states do wolves live in?
There are many areas in which wolf packs have settled. The states that they reside in are as follows:
- New Mexico
While there may be a few roaming around in other states, these are where they are recorded as living. Any sizeable population will be in these areas.
How many wolves live in North America?
Although the exact number cannot be known, it is estimated that around 60,000-70,000 wolves reside in North America.
While that pertains to more than just the United States, a good portion of that population resides in the U.S. with around 16,500+ members of different breeds.
Are wolves afraid of humans?
Generally speaking, wolves tend to fear humans and avoid them when possible. However, wolves that have had prior experience with humans or have been fed by them show little fear and may be aggressive if confronted. It varies, so it is best to be cautious around them like they probably will be around you.
What are wolves afraid of?
As stated before, wolves are typically afraid of humans, but there are other things that they avoid as well. Really, anything that they are unfamiliar with, they will likely stay away from.
Loud noises, bright light, and bigger predatory animals like us deter them.
How dangerous are wolves to humans?
Movies, TV shows, and old stories all have painted a negative picture of wolves in the past; these stories speak of attacks, of wolves running off with children in their jaws. In real life, that could not be further from the truth.
The reality is that humans have hunted and persecuted wolves for years. We are far more dangerous to them than they are to us, especially given that wolves do try to avoid human contact when they can.
What is the most dangerous breed of wolf?
According to several sources, the most dangerous breed of wolf is the gray wolf (also known as a timber wolf.)
What makes them so dangerous? For one thing, they are the biggest breed in the canid family. Adult male wolves can weigh up to 99 lbs., and females weigh about 85 lbs. On average.
They are easily heavier than a small child, and they are about half the weight of many adult humans.
Another reason these wolves are so dangerous is because they are used to hunting large game like elk. They can take on a human if they feel that they need to.
They are abundant in number, and they travel in large families, most packs being around 11 members in number. That is a staggering amount of predators to take on, even in a group.
Do wolves carry rabies?
While wolves are not typically carriers of rabies, they can be infected by other animals. Historically, vicious wolf attacks on humans have been because of this disease; they will act aggressively when they contract rabies.
While the cases are few and far between now, it is still possible that a rabid wolf exists near the area you are camping in.
Exercise extreme caution around them as you should anyway.
What are the signs of rabies in a wolf?
If you notice a wolf wandering around with any of these symptoms, it is probable that it could be infected with rabies:
- Out and roaming around in the middle of the day
- Seeming disoriented or confused
- Especially aggressive behaviors without being provoked
- Wandering completely alone
- Absolutely no apprehension or fear around larger predators and natural enemies (like humans.) Even wolves that are used to the presence of humans seem cautious.
- A foaming mouth
Some of these behaviors can be due to other factors, but you should stay away from the wolf and call the authorities on wildlife in the area. It has become a danger to everyone it comes across, and if it does not attack you, it may attack someone else.
What do you do if confronted by a wolf?
If you are confronted by a wolf, you must take action even if the wolf does not seem aggressive. These creatures are powerful, and you should avoid them. However, do not run! Running sets off a predator’s instincts, and they will chase you.
Don’t turn your back on one, either. Instead, you should:
- Make loud noises to scare it off.
- Make yourself seem bigger; wave your arms around. This may make the wolf believe that you are more trouble than you are worth when it comes to attacking.
- Back away from it slowly. This way, you keep your eyes on it while retreating to a safe place.
- Do your best to avoid falling. This makes the wolf perceive you as weak, and that will trigger its predator instincts again.
Doing a combination of these things should ward off a wolf, and you should be safe. Remember, wolves are usually scared of humans. Even one more used to our presence can still be intimidated.
What tools can you use to ward off wolves?
Because wolves are afraid of noise, large objects, and powerful threats, you have a few tools in your arsenal that you can pack in case you need to scare one (or maybe even a pack) away.
- A whistle. Whistles emit a piercing, shrill sounds that can be extremely loud. Wolves have sensitive ears, so the noise might become unbearable for them. Please be considerate of your campsite neighbors, though. Only use it if a wolf really is confronting you.
- Rocks, sticks, and other debris. No animal or human likes having things hurled at them, and this is true of wolves. Unless they are directly attacking, do not throw these objects directly at them. Throw them nearby to make your message clear: “I am tough and not prey. I can fight back.” This may warn them that you could overpower them.
- If a wolf tries to attack, you can use bear spray to incapacitate it. Bear spray is like mace, but it is a thousand times stronger. If it can stop a bear, it can stop a wolf.
What do you do if you see a wolf while hiking?
This is also a frequently asked question, and I would refer to the answers above for the best chances of staying safe. In addition to that, mark down the area in which you saw it on a map or make a mental note of it and stay clear of that place.
Wolves are pack animals, and they might not be alone next time.
What are the chances of being attacked by a wolf?
If you live in North America, the chances of being attacked are extremely low. Less than 100 cases have been reported in over 70 years, according to the International Wolf Center’s report. Considering how many reside in this part of the world, that is phenomenal! You are far more likely to crash your vehicle before getting to your campsite than you are of being attacked by one of these creatures.
What do you do if attacked by a wolf?
If your tactics did not scare the wolf off and it begins to attack, you can do a couple of different things to try and protect yourself.
- The most obvious answer is to fight back if you can. Without making yourself too vulnerable, pick up stones or sticks and throw them at the approaching wolf. Only use this tactic if you know it has targeted you. Do not hurt innocent animals unless your life is absolutely in danger.
- If fighting back does not work, use the tactic that people do when they are being attacked by bears. This strategy involves curling into a ball and protecting your most vulnerable body parts: neck, face, stomach, and extremities. Do not get up until the wolf leaves; trying to do so will likely trigger another attack.
Just remember: the likelihood of a wolf attacking you is very slim. Keep this information in mind, but don’t work yourself into a frenzy over it. You will likely be fine and safe as long as you do not invade a wolf’s space.
What do you do if bitten by a wolf?
If you have been bitten by a wolf, you need to go to a hospital immediately. The most immediate threat to your health is the possibility of rabies. Humans can be infected by the disease like other mammals can.
If you have been vaccinated against it before, you should be fine. If you have not, you should still pull through as long as you get the shot within 6 days of exposure.
After neurological symptoms present themselves and you have not been treated or immunized in time, though, it is very likely that rabies will be fatal. That danger is real and very possible, so do not delay in seeking medical care.
Another reason you should just go to the hospital anyway is the fact that you have been injured and are bleeding. Mouths carry nasty bacteria, and your wound may get infected, or you could lose a lot of blood if you do not get yourself patched up.
Cutting your camping trip time is a good tradeoff for keeping your limbs and your life. If you have been bitten, scratched, or maimed by a wolf, seek medical care as soon as you possibly can.
Do wolves attack at night?
Wolves are nocturnal hunters. They sleep during the day, and look for food at night. So yes, it is likely that the closest you will get to being attacked is at night (although the chances are still low.)
The best way to avoid this is to refrain from straying too far from your campsite or walking into the woods after sundown, especially if you are alone.
What is the best way to avoid being attacked by a wolf?
If you fear being attacked, you can keep yourself safer by doing some of these things:
- Travel in groups. Don’t wander off alone; wolves travel in packs. If you and your group members do as well, they will be less likely to take you on.
- Don’t explore near known wolf dens. This should be common sense, but it has happened before.
- Don’t hike after sunset. Most places you will go will warn you against it as well, and that is for many reasons. Non-wolf related reasons like getting lost or falling and hurting yourself are good enough to scare most people off from doing it, anyway.
- Be careful with your food. Animals have very sensitive noses, and wolves will be able to smell what you are cooking from far away. If you bring meat, be on guard. Wolves are carnivores, and your dinner is an easy snack.
- Do not feed a wolf or try to pet one. Again, it seems like no one would do so, but more people trust these wild animals more than they should. Respect them, but do not treat it like a pet. The less afraid a wolf is of a human, the more likely they are to get aggressive in the future.
Do wolves attack dogs?
The short answer? Yes. Dogs are closely related to wolves, and they are seen as rivals. Because your dog is a powerful attractor to these predators, practice these safety tips:
- Confine the area in which your pet can use the restroom. The less territory Fido claims as his own, the less trouble you may get from the local wildlife.
- Pick up all of your dog’s droppings and safely dispose of them. The smell will attract curious wolves, and they may make a beeline for your furry friend if they see it. You would not be in danger, but your dog could lose its life.
- Bring your dog into your tent with you at night. Keeping it outside is a bad idea, anyway, but wolves pose an elevated level of danger. If your dog is chained up to a tree at night away from the safety of shelter, he may not stand a chance against a pack of hungry or territorial wolves.
Can you outrun a wolf?
You absolutely can not outrun a wolf. Maybe if you happen to be Usain Bolt, but I’m guessing you are not. Wolves run faster than humans; their average speed is 31-37 miles per hour. The top speed of the average adult human is 28 miles per hour.
Even though humans have an incredible amount of endurance and could technically run for longer than a wolf could, it is not likely that you will be able to do it yourself, no matter how fit you are.
Besides, you are running over rough and unfamiliar terrain. Your chance of stumbling and falling when you try to run is pretty high, and then you are toast.
None of this should cross your mind, though, because you know you are not supposed to run from wolves in the first place. Right?
How do you keep a wolf away from your campsite?
According to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, follow this advice to keep wolves from snooping around your camp:
- Keep your camp clean. That means putting away all of your food before and after meals, preferably suspended from ropes in bags out of reach of these creatures. It means washing your dishes, putting your utensils in safe storage spaces, and keeping your trash away from them as well.
- Never, ever bury your garbage. This does not get rid of the smell. Instead, you have to pack it out at the end of your trip.
- The smartest thing you can do is leave your pet at home, dog or otherwise. If that is not a possibility, keep it leashed and keep it within sight at all times.
- Do not leave children unattended, either. Wolves may target them as well. Kids are not yet big enough to frighten them away like we are, and they may be too trusting of one because it looks like a dog.
- Avoid setting up camp near any animal carcass. The smell of the meat will attract wolves, and most attacks occur by chance encounters.
- Choose a campsite that is near toilet facilities. The smell of your waste may be interesting to the wolves as well as other predatory animals.
- Dispose of your dish water far away from the campsite.
- Do not approach a wolf purposefully. This is an invitation for trouble, even if the wolf is afraid of you.
What do you do if you spot an injured wolf?
Even when a wolf is vulnerable and weakened, there are many reasons why you should still not approach it.
- The wolf may be especially aggressive because it has to compensate for its weakened state by frightening potential threats and eliminating them if possible.
- Other wolves may be nearby; if they are not, another predatory animal may be coming after it.
- The wolf could be infected with rabies, which is still highly dangerous to humans even if it can be treated.
Instead of coming near one yourself, you should call someone who is authorized to handle the situation like a park ranger or a wildlife rehabilitation center. They are more qualified to deal with this scenario than you are.