From my hometown paper:
Report confirms wolves killed Alaska teacher
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – At least two wolves chased down and killed a teacher who was jogging on a road last year outside a rural Alaska village, according to a report released Tuesday by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The body of Candice Berner, 32, a special education teacher originally from Slippery Rock, was found March 8, 2010, two miles outside Chignik Lake. The village is 474 miles southwest of Anchorage, on the Alaska Peninsula.
Biologists ruled out reasons for the attack other than aggression. Investigators found no evidence that the wolves had acted defensively or that Berner was carrying food. They found no kill site that wolves may have been defending, no indication that the wolves had become habituated to people, and no evidence of rabies.
“This appears to have been an aggressive, predatory attack that was relatively short in duration,” the report concluded.
Berner’s death by wolves was unprecedented in Alaska, but the animals were immediately suspected. The state medical examiner concluded that Berner died from animal mauling. Alaska State Trooper investigators found drag marks and wolf tracks around the body.
Eight wolves were culled in the aftermath. DNA from two wolves was confirmed on Berner’s body and clothing, including from one wolf not killed.
The news release:
Press Release: December 6, 2011
Contact: Lem Butler, (907) 861-2105
ADF&G Report Confirms 2010 Wolf Attack Fatality
(Juneau) – Today, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) released a report presenting findings related to the March 8, 2010, wolf attack that killed 32-year-old Candice Berner near the village of Chignik Lake on the Alaska Peninsula. The report summarizes agency response and subsequent investigation.
“All lines of evidence are consistent with the conclusion that two or more wolves killed Ms. Berner. The tragic encounter occurred as she jogged down the road less than two miles from the village,” said Lem Butler, principal investigator for ADF&G, and one of four authors of the report.
ADF&G’s investigation included on-scene evaluation of wolf tracks, interviews of those first to arrive at the scene, collection of wolves from the nearby area, and analyses of DNA and of other forensic evidence. Wolf DNA was recovered from the victim and her clothing. DNA test results provided by the U.S. Geological Survey lab in Anchorage indicated that two to four wolves were most likely involved, excluded other animals, and connected one of the wolves killed by the department to the incident.
The broader investigation indicated Ms. Berner was on the road, likely jogging away from town, while the wolves traveled toward town by moving along the road and openings in the brush. It could not be determined if this was a surprise encounter for both Ms. Brenner and the wolves, but evidence clearly shows a predatory response from the wolves.
ADF&G personnel and Alaska State Troopers shot two wolves and contracted trappers later killed six more within 15 miles of the village. The wolves were taken for public safety and for evaluation of biological factors that may have been associated with the attack.
ADF&G veterinarian Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen performed necropsies and collected samples for disease testing and DNA analyses on each of the eight wolves taken. One wolf was clearly implicated in the attack through DNA evidence. It was in apparent good health with very large fat reserves. All but two wolves were in good to excellent condition. There was no DNA evidence linking the two wolves in poor condition to the attack. Investigators found no evidence in any of the wolves of contributing factors to the attack such as rabies, disease, defense of food, or habituation to human food.
“We hope that the report’s findings help bring closure to Ms. Berner’s family, to the community of Chignik Lake and others affected by this sad incident.” said Butler. He also pointed out that wolf attacks on humans are rare and people should not be unnecessarily fearful. People should always maintain a safe distance and healthy respect when encountering wolves or other wild animals. Bear and moose encounters pose more risk to travelers in Alaska than wolves, but all wild animals can be unpredictable.
Bob Berner, Candice Berner’s father, said he hopes that people will learn from his daughter’s death through an increased awareness of the potential danger and by taking steps to increase safety. “People should be mindful of the potential harm that wolves and other wild animals are capable of inflicting,” he said.
The report, “Findings Related to the March 2010 Fatal Wolf Attack Near Chignik Lake, Alaska” is available at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/news/pdfs/wolfattackfatality.pdf (PDF 967 kB) . Additional information on safety in wolf country is available at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livewith.wolves. .