Read it and weep, those who defended the wolf's conduct. The full facts of the case have finally been released. Wolves were
the culprits. No, they were not really hybrids, or rabid, or acting in self defence.
I've organised this entry in a way responding to all the questions which, until now, had been left unanswered. Questions are written in normal font, while the segments of the report are in italics.1.
Were wolves regularly hunted prior to the attack? (Hunting wolves is the time-proven method of keeping wolves fearful of humans)Human use of wolves in the Chignik Lake area is low. Mandatory sealing documented the harvest of a few wolves during the last decade, but no wolves have been sealed in recent years.
Were there any other animal tracks on the scene? (Coyote, mountain lion, bear, dog etc.)Animal tracks along the sides of the road and in the area of the attack were identified as wolf tracks based on the size of individual tracks. Although some very large dog breeds leave tracks similar in size to wolves (Harris and Ream 1983), only small- to medium-sized dogs were observed in the community by Butler. No animal tracks were observed between the site of the attack and the community of Chignik Lake and no dog tracks were observed beyond the immediate perimeter of the Chignik Lake community. Additionally, none of the wolf tracks observed was of a size, stride length or stride pattern that could be confused with any other canid (dog-like) species in the area.
Could the wolves have been acting defensively?No evidence was found that the wolves acted defensively during the attack. A reconnaissance of the area did not detect any animal kill sites that the wolves might have been defending.
Were the wolves habituated? (The findings here surprised me...)No evidence was found that the wolves were habituated to people. Residents of Chignik Lake did report encounters with wolves in the weeks preceding the attack, but none of the encounters involved direct interaction with the wolves and interactions were unremarkable. The reports commonly described a group of people seeing two to four wolves at a distance. The wolves occasionally watched the people for a short time before moving away. No attempts were made to pursue or harass the wolves even though people were concerned by the sightings. Several residents stated that no one had attempted to feed or approach the wolves for any reason. Those types of encounters are typical of most human-wolf interactions in Alaska.
Could feral dogs have been culprits?Feral dogs were not involved in the attack, based on the size of the tracks at the site of the attack. Dogs in the community of Chignik Lake were small to medium sized and appeared well-socialized to investigators. Though often left to wander the village unattended, dogs rarely left the immediate vicinity of the community...
Could the wolves have been sick?All eight of the culled wolves tested negative for rabies and distemper. The histopathology reports from the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (Washington State University, Pullman, Washington) found parasites that are considered clinically insignificant. No conditions were found that would have predisposed these animals towards aggressive behavior. When viewed as a representative sample of the wolf population in the vicinity of Chignik Lake, these findings greatly reduce the possibility that the wolves involved in the attack were in an abnormal condition that would have predisposed these wolves to an attack. Six of the eight wolves culled were in good to excellent condition.
Was there any DNA evidence of dog or wolf-dog hybrid involvement?Nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analyses of the 20 forensic samples that could be used for individual identification found no evidence of wolf-dog hybridization. Although domestic dog DNA was found in two hairs left on the victim’s clothing (from among the 22 low quality samples that could not be used to determine animal identity), these two hairs were found from a location on the victim’s clothing that did not imply participation in the attack. All recoverable DNA associated with samples taken from areas on the victim related to the attack were from wolves. Thus, while domestic dog DNA was recovered from hair samples taken from the victim’s clothing, dogs were not associated with the attack. DNA evidence from the bite marks on the deceased was identified as wolf DNA.
Could the wolves have been starving?Based on the body condition of the wolves culled and on the number of prey species (moose and snowshoe hares) observed in the area, starvation or severe hunger were probably not factors in the attack. However, the amount of time since the wolves’ last meal is unknown.