Renowned wolf biologist casts doubt on hunter’s story of attack

Wolf expert Carter Niemeyer trapped, collared, tracked and sometimes shot wolves during a long career with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Eric MortensonCapital Press
Published on November 6, 2017 1:36PM
A retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist with 30 years experience said it is unlikely a wolf shot by an Oregon elk hunter was attacking the man.

Carter Niemeyer, who lives in Boise and oversaw or consulted on wolf recovery work throughout the West, also said descriptions of the bullet trajectory — in one shoulder and out the other – raise doubt about the hunter’s account that the wolf was running at him when he fired.

“That’s a broadside shot, not a running-at-you shot,” Niemeyer said. “If the bullet path is through one side and out the other, it indicates to me an animal could have been standing, not moving, and the shot was well placed.”

A bullet that hit the wolf as it was running forward most likely would have exited out the hips or rear end, Niemeyer said. He acknowledge the bullet or fragments could have deflected off bone, but said a forensic exam would have to explain that. Michelle Dennehy, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman, said the agency did not request a necropsy because the cause of death — gunshot — was known.

Niemeyer said the hunter’s account of taking a “snap shot into a ball of fur” is unlikely.

“I have to tell you I doubt the story,” he said.

Niemeyer, 70, said he’s hunted predators for 52 years as a government hunter and a taxidermist, and has dealt with fellow sportsmen and shooters for decades. “I’ve heard every story,” he said. “This story is very suspect to me.”

The elk hunter, Brian Scott, 38, of Clackamas, Ore., told Oregon State Police that the wolf ran straight at him. Scott told police he screamed, took quick aim and fired his 30.06 rifle once. Scott said he saw nothing but fur in the rifle’s scope as the wolf ran at him, according to published reports.

In an interview with outdoor writer Bill Monroe of The Oregonian/Oregon Live, Scott said he was terrified.

“People envision this jerk hunter out to kill anything, but that’s not me,” he told Monroe. “It frustrates me they don’t understand. I’m a meat hunter. I was looking for a spike elk. This wasn’t exciting. It ruined my hunt.”

Scott told Monroe he didn’t think he had time to fire a warning shot. He could not explain the bullet’s path, which entered the wolf’s right shoulder and exited the left, other than perhaps the wolf turned at the last instant or the bullet deflected.

Niemeyer, the retired wildlife biologist, said wolves will “turn around and take off” when they realize they’re near a human. Niemeyer said he had “many, many close encounters with wolves” while doing trapping, collaring and other field work for USFWS in Idaho, Oregon and elsewhere. He said wolves sometimes ran at him and approached within 6 to 8 feet before veering away.

Wolves are potentially dangerous, he said, “but all my experience tells me it would be fearful of a human.”

People in such situations should stand up if they are concealed, show themselves, and yell or throw things, Niemeyer said. Hunters could fire a shot into the ground or into a tree and “scare the hell out of them,” he said.

“That would have been the first logical thing to do,” he said. “The gunshot and a yell from a human would turn every wolf I’ve ever known inside out trying to get away.”

He also suggested people venturing into the woods should carry bear repellent spray, which certainly would also deter wolves, cougars or coyotes.

“If everyone shoots everything they’re afraid of, wow, that’s not a good thing,” he said.

Niemeyer acknowledged his reaction is based on years of experience with wolves.

“People say, ‘That’s easy for you to say, Carter, you worked with wolves for 30 years and you’re familiar with their behavior,’” he said.

The shooting happened Oct. 27 in ODFW’s Starkey Wildlife Management Unit west of La Grande, in Northeast Oregon.

Scott, the hunter, told police he was hunting and had intermittently seen what he thought might be coyotes. At one point, two of them circled off to the side while a third ran at him. Scott said he shot that one and the others ran away.

Scott went back to his hunting camp and told companions what had happened. They returned to the shooting scene and concluded the dead animal was a wolf. The hunter then notified state police and ODFW, which investigated. Police later found a shell casing 27 yards from the wolf carcass. The Union County district attorney’s office reviewed the case and chose not to file charges.

The Portland-based conservation group Oregon Wild raised questions about the incident. Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild’s field representative in Northeast Oregon, said he’s seen wolves in the wild several times and backed away without trouble or harm. Even the late OR-4, the fearsome breeding male of the infamous Imnaha Pack in Wallowa County, retreated and barked when it encountered Klavins and a hiking party.

“This (hunter) may have felt fear, but since wolves returned to Oregon, no one has so much as been licked by a wolf, and that’s still true today,” Klavins said.

“What has changed is we now have wolves on the landscape, 10 years ago we didn’t,” Klavins said. “Especially in the fall (hunting season), armed people are going to be out encountering wolves.”

Oregon Wild believes poachers have killed several Oregon wolves, and USFWS on Nov. 6 offered a $5,000 reward for information about a collared wolf designated OR-25 that was found dead Oct. 29 in South Central Oregon.

Klavins said wolf shooters might now use a “self-defense” claim as a “free pass to poaching.”

8 thoughts on “Renowned wolf biologist casts doubt on hunter’s story of attack

  1. Yes, I would believe that Mr. Niemeyer’s experienced account. So, the poacher ‘can’t account for the bullet trajectory’. What a bunch of ‘spineless’ wonders and scumbags at ODFW, and a governor who isn’t doing the job. Can a necropsy be asked for by the public, or has the evidence been destroyed? I wish there was a way for the citizens to sue.

  2. It reads like the worst dime novel pulp fiction ever. The guy was terrified. Wolf attacks are extremely rare, and the following ‘opinion piece’ says that there were ‘numerous skeletal remains of deer and elk’ in the area where the wolves were shot and where this guy Fudd had been terrified. I’d almost rather hear the bravado of these jerks than this fake fright:

  3. If you read the piece linked, there’s even what the writer thinks is a clever reference to those ‘Canadian wolves’ – it says that wolf attacks are rare, but not unheard of, especially in Alaska and Canada, where the reintroduced wolves were taken from (ergo, they are non-native killer wolves)! Oregon is every bit as disgraceful as Idaho and Wyoming, and it was terribly naive to delist them, and the state government is complicit with these killers in the deaths of this wolf and the other three recently found killed. Oregon has a history of this since wolves were delisted in 2015. You’d have to be stupid to think that this wouldn’t follow a delisting.

    If there’s a way for this to be investigated further or to file a lawsuit, I’ll gladly send a check for a donation to the group or groups that bring one forward.

  4. Some doubts about the story? No kidding.

    It makes me sick to hear the people who cause so much terror, suffering, and death among animals talking about how scared they are at the mere possibility of harm. Let’s see–how many wolves tortured and killed by people? How many people killed by wolves? Right.

  5. Now I’m no gun expert, but when I read this fiction, I immediately thought ‘broadside’ as well when how the wolf was shot. This man is either extremely lucky or he had time to plan and make a good shot? Between all the ‘horror’ and ‘fear’, of course. I really question wolves being that bold, and really, really question why Oregon Dept. of Hunting and Ranching Supporters didn’t do more about it. Weak leadership.

    It’s also very disturbing to read the lack of acknowledgement of science and history, still, to this very day about wolves – and the spread of misinformation whether deliberately or refusal to accept! The wolves of Oregon also dispersed naturally, they are not all descended from of those that were re-introduced to Yellowstone. The DNA of the Cascades Mountains wolves has shown that some are descended from the wolves of British Columbia! They travel over very large ranges.

    • Absolutely. And all the big carnivores roam and need more territory than we’re giving them. There is an organization in Montana named Vital Ground that buys tracts of land or negotiates with land owners to provide corridors for the animals to travel from one area to another safely. No one is safe from our species.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s