Hunter Shoots Oregon Wolf In ‘Very, Very Rare’ Human Attack

An elk hunter in Oregon recently shot and killed a wolf that he claimed was coming right for him. Officials deemed the shooting a rare legitimate case of self-defense and the hunter wasn’t penalized despite it being a protected species.

Mark Heinz

November 10, 20234 min read

Wolf head on 11 9 23
(Getty Images)

An elk hunter in Oregon recently shot and killed a wolf that he claimed was coming right for him, despite him yelling and waving his arms at it.

Officials deemed the shooting a rare legitimate case of self-defense and the hunter wasn’t penalized, even though wolves remain a protected species in Oregon.

Oregon’s wolves and elk likely both carry Wyoming DNA.

Wolf Attacks Extremely Rare

Wolf attacks on humans in North America are vanishingly rare, a wildlife biologist told Cowboy State Daily.

“Actual attacks on humans in the U.S. are very, very rare,” said Kristin Barker, the research coordinator for the Cody-based Beyond Yellowstone Program.

“There have been cases of wolves in India attacking children, but in North America, and in the U.S. in particular, that doesn’t happen,” she added.

Barker has spent extensive time close to wolves in Wyoming and said she’s never had a problem with them. She’s found them to be either “timid” or “unconcerned” with her presence.

“Anecdotally, whenever I've upset wolves, I've found them to be all bark and no bite,” she said.

Never A Full-Blown Attack In Oregon

There’s never been a full-blown wolf attack on a human in Oregon, said Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

There have been two cases of hunters shooting wolves in self-defense because they felt threatened, she told Cowboy State Daily. One was in 2017, and another earlier this month.

In the second incident, “the hunter shot the wolf in self-defense when it continued to approach despite him reporting yelling and waving his arms to scare it away,” she said. “Wolf attacks are extremely rare, so although it is unlikely this wolf would have attacked, wild animals are unpredictable and this wolf didn't respond as expected to attempts to scare it.”

The hunter told investigators that the wolf he shot came out of the trees and started heading for him. He said that after he killed that wolf, a second came out of the trees, but fled after he shot into the air, according to ODFW.

In the 2017 incident, the hunter described being circled by animals he initially thought were coyotes, and when one ran at him, he shot and killed it and the others fled, according to ODFW. The animal he shot turned out to be a wolf, and investigators ruled the hunter had shot in self-defense.

Critters With Wyoming Roots

Oregon never reintroduced wolves, but roughly 170 wolves live there.

That wolf population “was all through migration and natural reproduction,” she said.

Wolves began to trickle into Oregon from Idaho in the late 1990s and early 2000s, meaning they likely came from the Greater Yellowstone area, which includes Wyoming.

Oregon allows for a “controlled take” of wolves by wildlife agents for such things as killing livestock, Dennehy said. But that state has no current plans for wolf hunting seasons, such as those in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

Oregon also has Wyoming to thank for its Rocky Mountain elk population.

Another native elk subspecies, Roosevelt elk, persisted on the west side of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. But by the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that state’s Rocky Mountain elk herds on the east side of the Cascades were severely diminished, she said.

Wyoming elk were loaded on trains in the Jackson area and brough to Oregon in 1912 and 1913 to replenish those herds, Dennehy said.

Oregon also recently agreed to give Colorado 10 wolves for the Centennial State’s wolf reintroduction program, scheduled to start next month.

“We have a long history of the states sharing wildlife,” Dennehy said.

Mark Heinz can be reached at

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter