As such let's begin the study of historical wolf studies:
WOLF ATTACKS ON HUMANS
By T. R. Mader, Research Director
It has been widely discussed whether a healthy wild wolf has ever attacked a human on this continent. In fact, many say such attacks have never occurred in North America.
History states otherwise. Although attacks on humans are uncommon, they have occurred on this continent, both in the early years of settlement and more recently. Here is one report:
“NEW ROCKFORD, DAK, March 7 - The news has just reached here that a father and son, living several miles northeast of this city, were destroyed by wolves yesterday. The two unfortunate men started to a haystack some ten rods from the house to shovel a path around the stack when they were surrounded by wolves and literally eaten alive. The horror-stricken mother was standing at the window with a babe in her arms, a spectator to the terrible death of her husband and son, but was unable to aid them. After they had devoured every flesh from the bones of the men, the denizens of the forest attacked the house, but retired to the hills in a short time. Investigation found nothing but the bones of the husband and son. The family name was Olson. Wolves are more numerous and dangerous now than ever before known in North Dakota." (Saint Paul Daily Globe, March 8, 1888)
Here an account is reported which included an eyewitness and the family name. Some have reasoned the wolves were rabid. That is unlikely as these animals were functioning as a pack. A rabid wolf is a loner. Our research has never found a single historical account of packs of rabid wolves on this continent. Individual animals are the norm. Further, accounts of rabid (hydrophobic) animals were common in that day and were reported as such.
The winters of 1886-1888 were very harsh. Many western ranchers went broke during these years. The harsh winter could have been a factor in the attack.
Noted naturalists documented wolf attacks on humans. John James Audubon, of whom the Audubon Society is named, reported an attack involving 2 Negroes. He records that the men were traveling through a part of Kentucky near the Ohio border in winter. Due to the wild animals in the area the men carried axes on their shoulders as a precaution. While traveling through a heavily forested area, they were attacked by a pack of wolves. Using their axes, they attempted to fight off the wolves. Both men were knocked to the ground and severely wounded. One man was killed. The other dropped his axe and escaped up a tree. There he spent the night. The next morning the man climbed down from the tree. The bones of his friend lay scattered on the snow. Three wolves lay dead. He gathered up the axes and returned home with the news of the event. This incident occurred about 1830. (Audubon, J.J., and Bachman, J.; The Quadrupeds of North America, 3 volumes. New York, 1851 - 1854)
George Bird Grinnell investigated several reported wolf attacks on humans. He dismissed many reports for lack of evidence. Grinnell did verify one attack.
This occurrence was in northwestern Colorado. An eighteen-year-old girl went out at dusk to bring in some milk cows. She saw a gray wolf on a hill as she went out for the cows. She shouted at the wolf to scare it away and it did not move. She then threw a stone at it to frighten it away. The animal snarled at her shouting and attacked her when she threw the stone at it. The wolf grabbed the girl by the shoulder, threw her to the ground and bit her severely on the arms and legs. She screamed and her brother, who was nearby and armed with a gun, responded to the scene of the attack and killed the wolf. The wolf was a healthy young animal, barely full grown. Grinnell met this girl and examined her. She carried several scars from the attack. This attack occurred in summer about 1881. (Grinnell, G.B.; Trail and Campfire - Wolves and Wolf Nature, New York, 1897)
In 1942, Michael Dusiak, section foreman for the Canadian Pacific Railway, was attacked by a wolf while patrolling a section of track on a speeder (small 4-wheeled open railroad car). Dusiak relates, "It happened so fast and as it was still very dark, I thought an engine had hit me first. After getting up from out of the snow very quickly, I saw the wolf which was about fifty feet away from me and it was coming towards me, I grabbed the two axes (tools on the speeder), one in each hand and hit the wolf as he jumped at me right in the belly and in doing so lost one axe. Then the wolf started to circle me and got so close to me at times that I hit him with the head of the axe and it was only the wielding of the axe that kept him from me. All this time he was growling and gnashing his teeth. Then he would stop circling me and jump at me and I would hit him with the head of the axe. This happened five times and he kept edging me closer to the woods which was about 70 feet away. We fought this way for about fifteen minutes and I fought to stay out in the open close to the track. I hit him quite often as he came at me very fast and quick and I was trying to hit him a solid blow in the head for I knew if once he got me down it would be my finish. Then in the course of the fight he got me over onto the north side of the track and we fought there for about another ten minutes. Then a west bound train came along travelling about thirty miles an hour and stopped about half a train length west of us and backed up to where we were fighting. The engineer, fireman and brakeman came off the engine armed with picks and other tools, and killed the wolf."
It should be noted that this wolf was skinned and inspected by an Investigator Crichton, a Conservation Officer. His assessment was that the animal was a young healthy wolf in good condition although it appeared lean. ("A Record of Timber Wolf Attacking a Man," JOURNAL OF MAMMOLOGY, Vol. 28, No. 3, August 1947)