The death of Candice Berner sent shock waves through Alaska and down into the Lower 48. People were stunned, appalled to think that wild wolves would aggressively attack and kill a small and innocent woman who was out for a run in a remote section of the Alaska Peninsula. And still, animal lovers and wolf defenders blamed the young school teacher for her ignorance, claiming, as perverted as it may sound, that she asked to be attacked. They found every excuse they could to defend the animals and demonize the woman, even claiming her death was the result of something else and that wolves were just scavenging – doing what wolves do.
Needless to say, reports were numerous and emotions high as you can read about here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. The emotions behind this story ran so high that these articles listed prompted nearly 900 comments from readers.
Today, according to the News Tribune out of Alaska, DNA sampling and results of an investigation have shown beyond any doubt that aggressive behavior by wolves, perhaps as many as 9, attributed to the attack that killed Candice Berner.
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.
My heart still breaks when I think about what Candice Berner’s family and friends have been through in all this. To live with the knowledge that wild animals attacked and killed a woman, a daughter, a teacher and a friend.
It’s important to note that while testing confirms that wolves’ DNA was found on Berner and that some of those wolves were subsequently killed after the mauling death, the investigation by law officials appears to point very clearly that the only thing that Candice Berner was guilty of was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Charges against Berner at the time of the slaughter by defenders of wolves was that she was probably carrying food and that she couldn’t hear wolves because she had earplugs in to listen to music, or that she just shouldn’t have been outside jogging. The investigation concludes that none of these things were a factor. As a matter of fact, indications suggested that Berner, while running the road, may have spotted a wolf or wolves in front of her. The report claims she stop suddenly and began running the other way near where the attack occurred. This may or may not have contributed to the attack but all other evidence in the investigation shows the only reason the wolves attacked and killed Candice Berner was pure aggression. What brought on that aggression we can only speculate. Wolves are by nature an aggressive animal. Again, wolf advocates will refute that claim but officials ruled out all the “normal” things wolves become aggressive over.
As is told by Dr. Valerius Geist, there are circumstances that alter a wolf’s behavior. It is important that we all learn about what those circumstances are so that we can recognize them. We can all be a bit safer if we do.
Probably for the Berner family, they would now like to put this all to rest. Unfortunately, this debate will rage on as do many discussions that involves wolves. The minds of humans are a puzzling thing and puzzling it is why the life of an animal is placed higher than that of a human being by some.
Rest in peace Candice Berner.
*Update #1* December 7, 2011, 1:45 p.m.