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Alaska woman escapes after wolf pounces


July 13, 2006

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The wolf saw Becky Wanamaker first.

She was strolling through a campground just off the Dalton Highway, along the Arctic Circle, waiting for her four traveling companions to wake up.

A long day in the car ahead, she decided to stretch her legs.

Then she saw the wolf.




Its eyes fixed on her. The animal was mostly gray and bigger than a husky, Wanamaker said Wednesday, now safely home in Anchorage after Friday's attack. And it had long, long legs.

"And I don't remember if it was moving toward me or if it was stopped when I first saw it," she said. "But I just freaked and I bolted and ran toward the (campground) outhouses. That's what was in my head - run faster, get inside. I kept running - just thinking, don't fall. If you fall, you're done."

But wolves run faster than elementary schoolteachers.

"I felt it sink its teeth into the back of my right leg and release," recalled Wanamaker, who teaches deaf and hearing-impaired children.

"I kind of stumbled and kept running and he sunk his teeth into the back of my other leg. I screamed. I was screaming for help. I knew people were there. I wasn't sure if they could hear me, but I screamed."

And as she screamed, she made it to the outhouse.

Wanamaker took deep breaths, calmed herself and pulled at her pant legs: Four red teeth marks had cut the skin behind her left knee, one decidedly deeper than the others. A gash had torn across her inner right thigh. Two puncture wounds dotted the back of that leg, with a third behind the knee.

Luckily, there wasn't a lot of blood, Wanamaker said. She waited, then cracked the door and peered out. No wolf in sight.

She sprinted as hard as she could to the next outhouse down - one closer, she recalled, to a couple camping nearby.

Safely inside, she rested. She peeked out. The wolf was back. Waiting. Standing across the parking lot. Just watching her.

She shut the door again and waited longer.

Next time she looked out, the wolf was gone. She screamed to the campers nearby and they finally heard her.

"I told them I'd been bit by a wolf and asked, would they drive me to my friends," Wanamaker said. "The poor couple was kind of shocked. They're like, 'Are you serious?' "

The wolf attack was the final disaster in a summer road trip sprinkled with freak accidents: A tire on the group's Jeep went flat and shredded en route to Prudhoe Bay. Heading south again, a truck kicked up a rock that shattered one of the Jeep's windows. "It was epic, really," Wanamaker said. "A crazy adventure."

She can look at it that way now. She's back home and midway through a battery of rabies shots but otherwise OK.

Wanamaker learned after the attack that running from the wolf was probably the worst thing to do. A researcher with the Department of Fish and Game told her it's better to "stand him down, throw rocks" then run, she said.

"You hear so much about what to do when you see moose and bears, but you don't hear a lot about wolves even being seen," Wanamaker said. "And now I know what to do if I see a wolf again. I definitely want to even be more cautious. And I love the outdoors. This isn't going to keep me away from that."

Doctors in Fairbanks closed the gash on her inner thigh with stitches. She was given a rabies vaccine, and immunoglobulin was injected into her wounds. That part hurt, Wanamaker said.

She has a few rabies shots still to go, but they don't hurt badly, she said. Her wounds are still sore. Bruises have formed around them. But they're healing, she said.

Wednesday night, the pants Wanamaker wore during the attack sloshed around in her washing machine. They were covered with blood, she said. They're also full of wolf-teeth holes.

Will she keep them?


"I haven't decided if it's too traumatic or if it's cool."


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