Are wolves dangerous for humans?

Wolves in the wild usually do not pose a threat to humans. Wolves are very cautious animals that generally avoid contact with humans. To put it simply, they are just not interested in humans, as they neither categorise us as prey, nor as conspecifics. During an encounter with humans it is possible that they first assess the situation before drawing back or that they back out in a relaxed more than a panicky way. Pups possibly act more curious and naïve than adult animals.

Reports from attacks on humans from the last centuries can mainly be attributed to rabid wolves. Germany has been rabies-free since 2008 due to spreading of vaccine baits. Predatory attacks, i.e. cases in which wolves attacked humans to feed on them, are considered as extreme exceptions in historic records, too. Predatory wolf attacks are associated with very specific environmental conditions. This is possible in areas with heavily fragmented habitats, extremely low prey animal density and with wolves that feed on garbage. In this situation, children are vulnerable to attacks when they herd livestock in the forest. In today’s Europe, the risk that wolves learn such a behaviour is very low.

However, the instinctual caution shown by wolves towards humans can be reduced significantly when the animals are lured or provided with food. This can cause problematic behaviour.