Kenton Joel Carnegie wolf attack
|Kenton Joel Carnegie|
11 February 1983|
Ajax, Ontario, Canada
|Died||8 November 2005
Points North Landing, Saskatchewan, Canada
Cause of death
|Killed by grey wolves or an American black bear|
Kenton Joel Carnegie (11 February 1983 – 8 November 2005) was a 22-year-old Canadian geological engineering student from Ontario on a work term from the University of Waterloo who died in a wild animal attack while he was walking near Points North Landing. Landfill waste dumping in the area was fed upon by black bears and wolves, which may have caused them to become less fearful of humans. There had been no verified case of a fatality from a wild wolf attack in North America at that time. While in a cafeteria a few days before his death, Carnegie, who was described as gregarious, passed around close-range photographs of large wolf pups that had approached him during a walk in nearby woods; he was warned by a trucker that such encounters were best avoided. It is a matter of dispute whether Carnegie was ever made aware of an incident in which adult wolves had allegedly menaced a pair of walkers and tried to block their route back to the work camp. After reviewing evidence, which included wolf tracks left around the body, the finding of a coroner's inquest was that Carnegie had been killed by wolves.
Points North Landing, Saskatchewan, which is not far from Wollaston lake, is a service centre for uranium mines. Wolves and bears fed on camp refuse and were seen nearby. One naturalist who reviewed photographs taken during an incident days before the attack in which wolves that had were supposed to have menaced two walkers other than Carnegie, said it appeared to be consistent with animals having a food-conditioned lack of fear in proximity to humans. It was suggested that one wolf's posture indicated it was aroused and capable of an attack. Another expert disputed the characterisation of the wolf's attitude.
Perception of wolves
Farley Mowat's 1963 Never Cry Wolf gave a positive portrayal, and is often considered to be the most successful book on wolves, having been adapted into a Hollywood film and taught in schools. As "an important chapter in the history of Canadian environmentalism", it is credited with having changed perceptions of wolves by portraying them as loving, cooperative and noble rodent hunters. By the 1970s, the formerly widespread belief that wild wolves killed humans was reversed. Many books by naturalists asserted that “there has never been a documented case of a healthy wild wolf attacking a human in North America” (or variations thereof). Among the well educated, science was seen as having disproved the folk wisdom.
Carnegie was on his fall co-op term in his third year of geological engineering at the University of Waterloo. He and a colleague were in the Athabasca basin performing airborne surveying work for Ottawa-based Sander Geophysics. Carnegie told colleagues he was going for a walk. According to official statements made to RCMP, he was "implored" not to go. His family say that Carnegie was known to be interested in the geology around the lake, and he was given permission.
“Kenton asked and received approval from his supervisor to go for that last walk alone. Kenton was not a risk taker, had plans for his future and never would have taken that walk if he realized any potential danger.” Kim Carnegie, 2008
On 8 November at roughly 15:30, Carnegie left, saying that he would return by 17:00. At 19:00, he had not returned, and a search was mounted. Carnegie's tracks were followed to the lake shore. On noticing wolf tracks on the shore the searchers went back for a rifle before continuing. Carnegie's body was found a little further on, no wolves were observed at that time. Using a flashlight,the body was viewed from about 10 m (32 ft), many wolf tracks were visible around the body. Later, when the body was being recovered, two sets of eyes were seen glowing in the dark close by.
Rosalie Tsannie-Burseth, the province’s local coroner who had arranged the removal of Carnegie's body, gave a hypothetical reconstruction of what happened. Her reconstruction was based on tracks of people and animals she observed near the site of the attack the day after the event occurred. She speculated that Carnegie had walked from the camp and by the time he was a kilometre away near a frozen lake, a wolf began following his tracks. Boot prints in the snow showed that Carnegie quickened his pace, as two more wolves approached him from the sides. The first apparent struggle occurred 2.2 metres (7 ft) from where the chase began. Four more scuffle sites were found leading to where his body was discovered. Tsannie-Burseth believed that Carnegie probably fought hard before finally succumbing.
Before Carnegie's death, there had never been a single verified case of a fatal attack on a human by a wild wolf anywhere in North America. More than 300 occurrences of black bears behaving aggressively toward humans have been documented in the Province, including three fatal attacks. The main evidence against a bear attack was that Carnegie's body was surrounded by the tracks of wolves, while no bear tracks were found near his body.
"Lacking an eyewitness account, all we know for certain is that Carnegie's body was found on a lakeside trail near Points North Landing, a northern outpost with an airstrip. A large predator had scavenged him. We conclude from circumstantial evidence that Carnegie’s death was not a homicide as no indications of foul play were found at the scene of the accident. Moreover, we concur with the autopsy and forensic reports, which state unequivocally that no other signs, injuries, or cause of death, were observed other then [sic] those consistent with an animal attack. The type of wounds and feeding pattern confirm predation as the probable cause of death. Most likely, Carnegie was surprised by a violent predacious assault and sustained fatal wounds at an early stage during the attack.."
Paquet & Walker 2006
The RCMP determined that Kenton Carnegie's death was not the result of a homicide. The official Government of Saskatchewan investigation was headed by internationally renowned carnivore biologist and behavioral ecologist Dr. Paul Paquet and RCMP forensic anthropologist Dr. Ernest Walker, who oversaw Carnegie's autopsy, which was performed by Dr. N. Brits in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Brits stated that Carnegie's injuries were consistent with those expected in a predatory animal attack. Paquet and Walker concluded that the only likely candidates were wolves and American black bears, as grizzly bears, cougars and free ranging dogs were not known to frequent the Points North area. The report, however, was equivocal as to which predator was responsible, noting that most of the evidence, all of which was circumstantial, was unavoidably confounded by search and recovery efforts. Conservation Officers who investigated the accident site two days after the event and several snowfalls, wrote in their report "Officers investigated the site and found numerous wolf tracks in the area. No other large animal tracks could be found." Bears had not been sighted at Points North Camp for over a month, and the death occurred during what some suggest is their annual hibernation cycle.
It is unusual for wolves, and typical for bears, to drag the carcass of a prey animal in the way Carnegie's body was dragged. Among the photographed injuries present on the body, was a bite mark on the right side of Carnegie’s right calf/shin which some authorities considered consistent with the wolf bite marks researchers commonly observe on ungulate prey carcasses. Paquet and Walker identified the mark as occurring post mortem and indistinguishable from those left by black bears.
A naturalist retained by the Carnegie family reviewed accounts of 80 events in Alaska and Canada where wolves closely approached or attacked people, found 39 cases of aggression by apparently healthy wolves, and 29 cases of fearless behavior by non-aggressive wolves. After examining photographs of Carnegie's body and the area around it, a naturalist concluded that the argument in favour of a bear culprit was weak: many black bears may have been hibernating, an active bear would have concentrated on an ample food supply from the nearby landfill 2 km from the kill site, and none of the camp employees saw bears or bear tracks, either the month before or after the attack occurred. A bruise on Carnegie’s right lower leg (measured 4 × 2.5 cm), with what appeared to be bite mark impressions associated with the bruising was said to be consistent with injuries observed in 13 survivors of wolf attacks in Alaska and Canada. In many of these cases, the initial bites were fleeting and occurred in the hands or legs, and left only torn clothing, scratched skin, or minor puncture wounds. A photo, featuring the injured lower back of a six year old boy attacked by a wolf near Icy Bay Canada, showed bite marks ½-3 cm in length; many of which were similar to those found near the nose, eyes, and right arm of Carnegie’s body.
“Constable Noey noted that Mr. Carnegies’ tracks reversed course from the lake, the tracks moved up the trail a short distance and then there was a large disturbance in the snow as if something rolled in the snow. That may have been where Mr. Carnegie was first attacked and possibly bitten in the leg or shin early in the encounter. Beyond the disturbed snow in the trail, Kenton’s track breaks into a run and ventures off the trail into the surrounding muskeg and forest. At that point he was being pursued, or possibly the act of running stimulated the pursuit. Then there is a lot of blood in the snow, both drops and pooled blood. Constable Noey said it appears Carnegie stood at that point for some time because Kenton’s wide-stanced footprints straddled a large amount of blood on the vegetation and on the ground. That sequence is exactly what we would expect with a wolf attack, i.e., initial attack, pursuit, wounding bites inflicted, then a retreat of the wolves while the prey is weakened by blood loss. The drops and undisturbed pooling of blood do not suggest a bear attack where the bear would maintain constant contact with its prey and overpower it with physical force.”
— "A Review of Evidence and Findings Related to the Death of Kenton Carnegie on 8 November 2005 Near Points North, Saskatchewan" by Mark E. McNay, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Fairbanks, Alaska, 25 May 2007
However, as Carnegie was their first human victim, it would have been impossible to extrapolate normal, specific feeding behaviours. A reconstruction of the attack suggested that Carnegie repeatedly broke free and struggled to his feet after being taken down. Bears are adept at pinning prey.
The Chief Coroner's confidential investigative report was completed in the summer of 2006 and given to the Carnegie family for review. The report determined Carnegie was killed by either wolves or a black bear, and that the poorly conducted initial investigation and uncertainty of circumstantial evidence precluded a definitive conclusion. An Inquest date of February 2007 was then called by the Chief Coroner, but was rescheduled for 29 October 2007.
The Province of Saskatchewan chose not to present an affirmative case supporting the findings of the Chief Coroner. Accordingly, the lawyer representing the crown did not carry out in depth examinations of witnesses. Further, judicial inquests in Saskatchewan apply a much lower standard for determining cause of death (balance of probabilities or 51%) than do determinations by the Chief Coroner (reasonable doubt or 95%). On 1 November 2007, following three days of testimony and examination of photographs of Carnegie's body and the site of the incident, a six member jury concluded that wolves were responsible for Carnegie's death.
A scholarship fund at the University of Waterloo was established as a memorial. Dr. L. David Mech, an internationally recognized wolf expert, stated; "Mr Carnegie's death is a terrible tragedy but one fatal wolf attack in the recorded history of North America does not warrant widespread alarm".
According to Carnegie's family, the official investigation was too focused on establishing Carnegie’s cause of death, while ignoring wider policy issues . Further criticism concerned an alleged failure of some biologists to notice that an unnatural garbage-scavenging lifestyle meant wolves around the camp had flourished only to the extent they lacked fear of humans, and a proliferation of wolves thus selected was depleting the local deer population. Carnegie's father expressed concern that Saskatchewan's response was inadequate and that there was no real action being taken to tackle the circumstances which he believed had led to the attack.
Notes and references
- Boyd, Diane K. "(Case Study) Wolf Habituation as a Conservation Conundrum". In: Groom, M. J. et al (n.d.) Principles of Conservation Biology, 3rd ed., Sinauer Associates.
- "Statement by Valerius Geist pertaining to the death of Kenton Carnegie". graywolfnews.com. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
- A Review of Evidence and Findings Related to the Death of Kenton Carnegie on 8 November 2005 Near Points North, Saskatchewan by Mark E. McNay, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Fairbanks, Alaska, 25 May 2007
- "Victim was gifted and smart: father". Prince Albert Daily Herald. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- Grooms, Steve (2008). "The Mixed Legacy of Never Cry Wolf" (PDF). International Wolf 18 (3): 11–13.
- Karen Jones, Never Cry Wolf: Science, Sentiment, and the Literary Rehabilitation of Canis Lupus, The Canadian Historical Review vol.84 (2001)
- Mech & Boitani 2003, p. 294
- Jones, Karen (2001). "Never Cry Wolf: Science, Sentiment, and the Literary Rehabilitation of Canis Lupus". The Canadian Historical Review 84.
- Mech, L. D. (1998), "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" -- Revisited. International Wolf 8(1): 8-11.
- Welsbacher, A. (2001), Wolves, Capstone, p. 23, ISBN 0736807888
- Living with Wolves: Tips for avoiding Wolf Conflicts, International Wolf Center, (March 2002)
- Linnell 2002, p. 39-40
- "Saskatchewan gov't denies wolf attack". MiningWatch Canada. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- Svarckopf, Todd. 15 March 2006. "Statement #2 to the RCMP (Corporal Marion), phone interview from St. John’s Newfoundland." Audio transcribed.
- Review of Investigative Findings Relating to the Death of Kenton Carnegie at Points North, Saskatchewan by Dr. Paul Paquet, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, and Dr. Ernest G. Walker, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 8 August 2008
- <ref"Death of a Student in Northern Saskatchewan Caused by a Wolf – Reality or Fiction?" Fourth International Symposium on Canids. Behaviour and Conservation. A challenge to Mankind’s Tolerance. 31 October 2008 Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.
- Re: Review of evidence pertaining to the death of Kenton Carnegie, Brent Patterson, Trent University, Wildlife Research & Development Section
- "The death of Kenton Carnegie". CBC Saskatchewan. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- CANADA,com, NOVEMBER 2, 2007, Student's death confirmed as continent's first fatal wolf attack
- 'McRory, W. 2006. (Confidential) Review of carnivore factors as the cause of the fatality of a 22 year old man in Northern Saskatchewan on 8 November 2005; on behalf of Dr. P. Paquet for Coroner’s report.
- "Sexy Beasts". National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved 2008-09-29.
- "Inquest begins into death of possible wolf victim". CBC News. 29 October 2007.
- "A Case History of Wolf-Human Encounters in Alaska and Canada". Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Technical Bulletin. Retrieved 2008-08-17.
- "Fairbanks wolf expert helps debunk Canadian bear attack theory". newsminer.com. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- Geist V. The Virginia Wildlifer (May 2003, pp: 39-43?) June 2003, pp. 35-39
- Wolf Ideology & Kenton Carnegie By Jim Beers
- Vyhnak, Carola (15 November 2007). "Parents find peace in jury's findings". Toronto: TheStar.com. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- "Wolves killed student: jury". Prince Albert Daily Herald. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- Kenton Joel Carnegie Memorial retrieved 27/8/14
- Wolves at the Door by Moira Farr, Explore Magazine, March 2006
- "Wolves Are Targeting Humans As Prey". Western Institute for Study of the Environment. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
- "Province's plan inadequate, father of wolf attack victim says". CBCNews.ca. 11 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-30.