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Are Wolves Dangerous to Humans & Pets?

Wolves typically aren’t dangerous to humans, unless they’re rabid. They tend to stay away from people. On the other hand, they may attack pets.

Wolves are readily associated with danger and violence. But are they really dangerous to humans and pets? 

All Wolfpack Ranks (Wolf Facts) x
All Wolfpack Ranks (Wolf Facts)

Wolves tend to keep away from humans, so they won’t attack unless rabid. They may kill a pet if it’s not accompanied by a human.

Wolves are also known for killing livestock, but this is rare because wolves are picky eaters that don’t like eating meat all the time.

In this article, we’ll talk more about the dangers of wolves, and whether you should be afraid of wolf attacks.

Are Wolves Aggressive Animals?

Wolves can be considered aggressive animals, as they’re predators that hunt for food. However, they’re not aggressive toward humans, but instead fearful.

Wolves are quite timid and fearful of humans. Wolves will only attack if they are rabid or feel threatened by a person. Even then, wolf attacks are rare and often result in no injuries.

Only 489 people from 2002 to 2020 experienced wolf attacks. [1]

Wolves pose little danger to pets, as well. Pets that are accompanied by their owners are generally safe from any type of wolf attack. However, if a pet is left unsupervised in an area where there are wolves, it may be at risk for an attack. 

Livestock is a different story; wolves have been known to kill livestock on occasion. While this does have an impact on local farmers, it should be noted that wolves kill only a fraction of the livestock in North America and their overall impact is minimal. [2]

For the most part, wolves are not a danger to humans or other animals and should be treated with caution and respect.

Related: Are wolves predators?

couple of wolves in the wild

Are Wolves Dangerous to Humans?

Wolves are not considered a threat to humans. There have been cases of wolf attacks, but these are rare. The majority of wolf interactions with people are fear-based and the wolves will usually flee if they encounter a human.

Wolves have been hunted by humans for many years, and have hence learned to keep their distance.

There are occasional reports of rabid wolves attacking people or pets, but this is very rare. 

In fact, most documented cases of wolf attacks are caused by rabid wolves.

Overall, wolves are not considered a major threat to humans and only pose a danger in rare cases. For the most part, they are afraid of us and will avoid contact whenever possible. 

So, while it’s important to be aware of their presence in areas where they live, there is no need to be overly concerned about wolf attacks.

wolves in large pack

Rabid Wolves Are Dangerous

Wolves typically only attack humans if they’re infected with rabies. This disease causes them to act unnatural and reckless.

Wolves are incredibly powerful predators that can take down prey much larger than themselves. 

However, contrary to popular belief, wolves generally avoid contact with humans. In fact, the vast majority of wolf attacks occur when the animal is rabid or otherwise provoked.

Rabies is a dangerous disease to humans. If a person is infected with rabies, they’re almost certain to die once they start showing visible symptoms. [3]

When an animal is infected with rabies, it causes them to act out of character. This is seen in wolves, dogs, foxes, and other wild animals. Rabies can cause otherwise fearful animals to act out in aggression.

Rabid animals are the main concern when it comes to wolf attacks, so if you encounter a suspected rabid wolf, please contact your local authorities immediately.

wolf fight

Are Wolves Dangerous to Pets?

Wolves can be dangerous to pets, but only if they’re roaming around on their own. Pets accompanied by their owners are typically safe.

Wolves hunt other animals for food. If they come by easy prey, they won’t pass on the opportunity of an easy meal.

This may also be the case for pets.

There are reports of hunting dogs roaming freely in forests, where they’ve then been attacked by a wolf. The same goes for livestock, as wolves may prey on these for an easy meal.

Wolves may also attack pets if they feel threatened. Hunting dogs are seen as competitors by wolves, and may hence be attacked.

pack of wolves

Do Wolves Kill Livestock?

Wolves do kill livestock if they can get to them without being confronted by humans.

Wolves are hunters, often targeting larger prey such as ungulates. From time to time, they may also hunt livestock.

Wolves mainly hunt livestock like sheep, goats, and cattle when they come by farms [2]

The wolves are only trying to survive and because of this, they sometimes prey on the livestock if their natural food sources are unavailable. 

In 2014, wolves killed 136 cattle or 1 cow out of every 44,853. Their hunting of livestock does not have a significant impact on food supplies.

pack of wolves against a large prey

Wolf Attacks on Humans

Wolf attacks on humans are not common. They tend to keep their distance, as they know humans are dangerous.

Wolves are social animals, but are afraid of humans and tend to avoid us. 

When wolves attack it is either because they are rabid or have been habituated to people through exposure, meaning that the wolf has gotten used to being around people so much so that it no longer fears them. 

Wolf attacks on humans are very rare events. In the period 2002 to 2020, only 489 people experienced attacks from wolves. Most of these attacks were done by rabid wolves. [3]

Alpha wolf

How to Avoid Being Attacked by Wolves

The best way to avoid being attacked by wolves is to scare them away with fire, as well as travel in larger groups.

There are several things you can do to avoid being attacked by wolves such as:

  • Make noise as you travel through wolf territory.
  • Avoid traveling in the evening or at night when wolves are most active.
  • Don’t surprise a wolf – always give them plenty of time to see and understand who or what you are before getting too close.
  • Don’t run away from a wolf – this may trigger their hunting instinct.
  • Use fire, as wolves are scared of fire.
  • Travel in larger groups. Wolves are scared of people, especially if there are many.

Wolves respond well to dominance. Some people have had success scaring away wolves by showing dominance. This includes making noise, yelling, and generally posing as a threat.

Once you’ve established dominance, you should back away slowly, still keeping eye contact.

firewood

How to Survive a Wolf Attack

Remain calm and do not run. Running will only make the wolf more aggressive. Try to intimidate the wolf by making loud noises or trying to stare it down. Back away slowly while keeping an eye on the wolf. Do not turn your back on it. 

If the wolf starts to approach, try to create a barrier between yourself and the animal.

You can also climb into a tall tree, as wolves can’t climb trees

If the wolf attacks, fight back with any means you have. Use sticks and rocks if nothing else is available. 

When all else fails, play dead until the animal leaves. Lie face down on your stomach or in the fetal position and cover your face to protect yourself. 

Do not move until it’s gone from sight as this will only encourage it to attack further.

Do Wolves Kill for Sport?

No, wolves do not kill for sport. They kill when they’re hungry, and to secure a meal.

Wolves are not known for killing for sport. Wolves are predators, hunting for food. Wolves eat a lot, upward of 20 pounds in a single sitting, meaning they have to kill many prey animals.

There have been only a handful of cases where wolves have attacked people and those attacks were almost always due to the wolf being rabid. 

Even then, it’s important to note that the vast majority of wolf encounters result in nothing more than the animal running away or just observing from a distance.

wolves with their prey

What Do Wolves Hunt?

Wolves live in packs and hunt together, usually preying on deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and other large ungulates. 

If no ungulates or large prey is available, they may also hunt smaller animals such as rabbits or rodents. Wolves are also very fond of fish.

Wolves will also kill livestock, but don’t have any real effect on livestock numbers. 

In North America, wolves rarely attack people but they may attack pets if they’re not accompanied by their human guardians.

Related: Wolves hunting tactics

wolves hunting as predators

Can You Tame a Wolf?

No, you can’t tame a wolf. Wolves are wild animals, and will always be considered wild, even in captivity.

While some have tried, it’s impossible to tame a wolf. Wolves are domestic animals, meaning, they aren’t tamable. While they may be held in captivity, and even form bonds with humans, they’ll still be considered wild.

Related: Can you tame a wolf?

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.