Wolf expert says human habituation likely reason for Cigar Lake attack
Cameco says garbage disposal, fencing improved since 2004 death
After a mine worker was sent to hospital following a wolf attack in Northern Saskatchewan earlier this week, experts say it's likely the animal had ceased being afraid of humans.
The 26-year-old man at the Cigar Lake mine had taken a break just after midnight Monday when he was attacked by the predator less than 100 metres from the permanent camp. He was rescued by a security guard and airlifted to Saskatoon.
CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning talked to two wolf experts about what may have caused the attack. Valerius Geist is a zoologist and professor emeritus at the University of Calgary and has written extensively about wolves. Lu Carbyn is an internationally recognized expert on wolf biology and an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta.
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While both researchers say it's difficult to pinpoint exactly why the wolf attacked, Geist said it was notable that the wolf was alone, apart from any pack.
"The wolf was almost certainly hungry," he said. "For instance, when they grow old and are starting to lose teeth, and their efficiency in hunting goes down, that can be an issue."
Carbyn said it's very likely the animal was lured to the area by the smell of garbage generated at the mine.
"Wolves are attracted to garbage sites, and in the process might actually lose fear of people, because they're constantly in close proximity with people," he said.
For its part, Cameco said it hired experts after a 2004 incident where a man was killed by a wolf at Points North Landing. It educates staff on dealing with large predators, and surrounds its garbage dump with two fences, one which is electrified.
Used to humans
Meanwhile, both experts agreed that while it is very rare for people to even see a wolf in the wild, it is very dangerous if a wolf acts like it is not afraid of people.
"If you see a wolf sitting down and watching, it is a good idea to get out of there," said Geist. "And if this happens repeatedly, again and again and again, it's time to remove that animal."
If someone does come into contact with a wolf, running away from it is generally the worst thing to do.
"You make yourself as large as possible, put up your arms high, scream at it," he said. "That is likely to help."
With files from Saskatoon Morning