What It Takes To Survive When Meeting The Wolves

If you are trying to live off the land, or have to because the world nearly ended, you’ll face the wilderness and its challenges. 

One of them is encountering a pack of wolves. What do you do when you meet the wolves? First, you’ll try to remember everything you’ve ever heard and learned about surviving them. This is why you need this article. Knowing how to recognize their intent, as well as how to escape the encounter will save you. Keep reading, then keep these 6 tips in your mind!

How to Tell When Wolves are Around

The population of wolves in some areas are increasing to the point where more people are coming into contact with them.

Since wolves tend to be afraid of people, they might hide themselves as soon as they sense your presence, so you might not see them immediately. It can take days to weeks to discover if you are in a wolf pack’s territory

But there are still a few things you can use to determine if wolves have been around:

  • Keep an eye out for their tracks. Wolves usually have bigger feet the coyotes and most dogs. They also walk so that all four paws make a fairly straight line, while dogs tend to waver. If you notice tracks in the snow, wolves that follow the leader will put their paws in the same track as the leader.

  • Wolf kill sites are also fairly easy to spot. Their prey will be ripped apart, and picked fairly clean. You may also see signs of crushed bones with bite marks that indicate the wolves bit through the bones. Even if the wolves did not eat the prey for some reason, there is a chance they will come back to the site, even months later. If you see a wolf kill, proceed with caution, and always be careful in this area.
  • Once you locate a kill site, you may also spot locations off the trail where the wolves were sleeping.
  • Since wolves eat bones and fur, their scat often contains remains of these materials.
  • Watch for the presence of crows circling. Unlike many other animals, wolves usually won’t try to chase crows out of their territory. If you see crows circling, there is a chance they are at the site of a wolf kill, and are waiting for their chance to feast. In addition, wolves will also scavenge off already dead carcasses. They also watch the behavior of the crows, and may follow them to a kill that they will want to take advantage of. Even if you do not see wolves in the area, it is best to stay away from any location where you see crows circling, as it may mean wolves are there, or soon will be.

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It Spells Danger

With time and experience in nature, you will more than likely learn how to spot wolf kills. An unconsumed carcass can mean more danger than you expect, especially if it looks like a lone wolf made the kill.

Sadly, rabies epidemics are reaching greater proportions among wolves every year. As with dogs, cats, and other mammals, wolves are highly susceptible to this disease.

Since a wolf pack’s territory can reach over 600 miles, even a single wolf has the potential to reach out and spread this disease to many other animals. Typically, a rabid wolf will either leave the pack or be driven from it.

As they roam around, they will make several kills, and then not eat the meat from them. Therefore, if you see a wolf kill, it is important to be wary of other animals as well as the wolves themselves.

Rabies can be a tricky disease to spot in the early stages, and you will not want to come down with it because you ate an animal that has this disease.

What Each Animals Position in the Pack Means

Wolves are highly social animals that travel together in family groups.

Even though there is no such thing as a wolf that serves as a leader, there is a male and female alpha for each pack that the rest of the wolves will follow. The alphas are also the ones most likely to mate and rear pups successfully to adulthood. In addition, as long as an alpha male and female mated pair are alive, they will remain monogamous.

If the genetic relationship is too close between the alphas, the male may mate with one of the betas instead.

A wolf pack can have between 8 and 15 members, and most wolves fall somewhere between the alphas and the omega and are referred to as beta. These wolves may be male or female, although the male alpha may chase off males that will, in turn, form their own packs.

Depending on the age or other characteristics of the alphas, the beta wolves may become alphas, or switch back and forth at any time. Typically, the change of command is fairly peaceful, although wolves can fight physically. In most cases, wolves achieve alpha status, however, though personality and communication.

Finally, the lowest ranking wolf in the pack is the omega. These may be the youngest wolves in the pack, and are often treated with the most aggression by the others. It’s not unusual for omegas to eventually leave the pack and try to form their own.

Even though wolves are relatively peaceful among members of their own pack, they will join together and defend their territory from other wolves as well as other animals. In fact, they will even gather and attack bears, cougars, and other animals closer to the top of the food chain. This includes humans.

How to Escape if Wolves Approach You

Generally, there are two basic kinds of wild animal attacks:

  • There are attacks that occur because the animal is frightened or seeks to protect its young. In these cases, you are usually best served by making yourself as small as quiet as possible so that the animal will leave you alone. If you make noise with these kinds of animals, throw things at them, or make yourself appear larger, there is a much higher chance they will attack and kill you.
  • The other kind of animal attack that occurs revolves around animals that clearly want you out of their territory because they consider themselves superior or dominant. Wolves fall into this category. If you do not assert your right to be in the area, the wolves will seek to surround you, kill you, and possibly have you for dinner.

Let’s see how these two situations apply to wolves.

When you have wolves approaching, it may be very tempting to try and run away. Remember that wolves run faster than you, and it will be impossible to escape them. To make matters worse, once you turn your back on them, they will charge on you all the faster.

Consider that dogs also have a similar instinct when it comes to perceiving the difference between prey and something that is dominant over them. Dogs will chase cars, humans, and other animals because anything that is fleeing away from them is fair game. The very act of fleeing triggers, in dogs and wolves, predatory instincts even if what they are pursuing is actually bigger and stronger than them.

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Instead of running away, the best thing you can do is make yourself seem as big and threatening as possible. You can yell, jump up and down, throw things, and make other loud noises.

Advancing aggressively may also cause the wolves to pause, but you will still need to keep moving backwards while keeping the wolves in front of you. In some cases, this may be enough to cause the wolves to stop, and hopefully go away. Even if the wolves begin to move off, never turn your back on them. Just keep moving backwards slowly and at a steady pace.

One of the most important things you can do in an encounter with wolves is make sure that you keep eye contact with them without staring. Remember, among themselves, it is body language and psychological means that are used to achieve dominance, not physical conflict.

Avoid allowing the wolves to circle behind you. Towards that end, you must always be aware of where each wolf in the pack is, and how it is moving in relation to the others and you. If at all possible, move towards an area, such as a gate, where you can go through, but the wolves will be unable to get behind you, and, eventually, unable to follow you.

STAY CALM. Wolves have an incredible sense of smell, and can literally smell fear. If they catch a smell that indicates fear, they will perceive you as prey and may just decide to attack.

To escape the wolves completely, you will need to back up until you find a useful way to get a way from the wolves – climbing a tree, getting into a vehicle, or getting into some other shelter that the wolves cannot get into.

If the pack is hungry, or want to eat you later on, they may stay around for a good while, or try to get at you. Unless you completely leave the area, count yourself still in danger. No matter whether the wolves appear again in hours, days, or weeks, you must never forget that another, and more dangerous encounter may occur.

If you survive an initial encounter with wolves, but your safe area is surrounded, you will need to find some weapons to protect yourself with. Among other things, you can try building a fire. You should also know how to make spears, throwing knives, and other weapons that can be used to kill or injure the wolves. Needless to say, if you can make contact with others, it will be a good idea to alert them to your situation and ask for help.

When a Wolf Attacks

No matter how hard you try, it may not be possible to avoid being attacked by wolves. As with dogs and other related animals, a wolf will seek to knock you down and bite. Wolves will also attack as a group, which makes it much harder to defend yourself. Nevertheless, here are some things to do for your salvation:

  • Always remember to carry a heavy stick, rocks, or other weapons with you. If a wolf begins charge at you, then you may have to kill it if you are able.
  • If you do not have a weapon, back up against a tree or anything else that will protect your back. Jump up onto a large boulder to give yourself a height advantage.
  • Never simply give up and let the wolves tear you apart. Keep yelling, kicking, grabbing, and biting if you are able. As with any other animal, a wolf’s throat and eyes are vulnerable to attack. Grab one just below the jaw if you can, and dig hard into their throat with your fingers. Even if the wolf is fighting you, it may be possible to keep its teeth away from your body. You may also be able to use its body to shield you from the other animals.
  • If you fall or wind up on the ground, once again, do what you can to reach the wolf’s throat. Once you have control of its airway, bring your feet up and kick into its ribs and abdomen repeatedly. Watch how a cat will respond to an attack, and it should give you some ideas. As always, make sure your head remains tucked closed to your chest, and that your throat and neck are as protected as possible.

Other Things to Avoid

Most of attacks occur because someone, somewhere may have fed the wolves or done something else to cause them to lose their fear of humans.

Avoid feeding wolves or encouraging them to be around humans. No matter how much of an “animal person” you may think you are, there is a time and a place where these actions are irresponsible and endanger you as well as others.

This includes endangering the wolves themselves because once people learn an attack has occurred, there will be a move to hunt down and slaughter the entire pack.

Remember, the wolves did not ask for your presence, and if you or other encourage them, they will do as their nature dictates. It is one thing to encourage a wolf that lives in captivity or has a documented and accepted close contact with humans and seeking to do this with adult wolves in the wild.

For the most part, you will find that wolves are truly beautiful and intelligent creatures as long as you understand their role and yours in nature. But if you happen to encounter wolves, or are attacked by them, the situation can be extremely dangerous.

You have to think fast to find the best way to survive. Would you know how to do it?

Written by

Carmela Tyrrell is committed to off gridding for survival and every day life. She is currently working on combining vertical container gardening with hydroponics. Tyrrell is also exploring ways to integrate magnetic and solar power generation methods. On any given day, her husband and six cats give thanks that she has not yet blown up the house. You can send Carmela a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com.

Latest comments
  • Great piece, very informative and emphasis on prevention! IMO, anyone who enters wolf country, which is also bear country, needs to have a rifle. I wouldn’t go without an AR-15 or better, and a sidearm (Glock 17) with 19X9mm HP rounds. If you target the alpha first, I believe it’s more likely to spook the pack. The problem may be identifying the alpha male, I’m not sure if they lead the attack of it it’s the betas. I guess whichever one is closest or most aggressive is the one you shoot first.

    • Carlos, if you are going into Wolf country (and Bear country) with Only a 5.56 mm, (Unless its a CCA .300 Blackout), or a 9 mm – Good Luck ! I hope a friend with you has a .30 Cal., or a .45 . . .

    • I’d rather have a 12 gauge with 00 buck and a .45 side arm with me if I was ever to be in wolf or bear country.

      • I suppose if you wanted to burn down the forest while simultaneously incinerating the wolves.

    • Research indicates it’s the omega wolf that’s sent in first

  • The fact is, the number of wolf attacks against humans in North America can be counted on one hand (this from records going back to the mid-1800s). Wolves prey primarily on varieties of deer, rabbit, fish, and other kinds of wild game. The odds of becoming prey for a pack are very slim indeed. However, coy-wolves (or coyote-wolf hybrids) can be much more aggressive towards humans. Where I live, I always go into the woods armed and ready. One of my neighbors was chased into her house by a large pack of eastern coyotes, and many domestic animals have been targeted. The thing to remember is there is never just one coy-wolf. If you see one, there are others watching you as well. These animals are always observing humans and they are getting smarter with each successive generation. But with wolves: remember the old Alaskan adage. If you are confronted by a canine and can’t tell if it’s a dog or wolf, kick it. If it bites you, it’s a dog.

    • That’s a fact. We have a number of coy-wolves here in Central Virginia and they are nothing to fool with. They aren’t afraid of humans either. A man I know was hunting deer with his son who shot a big buck right at dusk. Sleet and rain ensued and they couldn’t find the buck. The next morning at dawn they returned to find it but found a pack of coy-wolves on the kill. They refused to back off.

      Another man in my area was coonhunting at night with his son and two dogs. Once they treed a coon they came to quickly realize they were surrounded by coywolves looking to make meals out of their dogs. A few blasts from a shotgun scattered them. The man doesn’t hunt coons anymore unless with a larger group of hunters and dogs.

      I’ve killed 8 of them this year so far. They are smart enough to stay 300-500 yards out which required my trusty AR10. They are very smart.


  • When retreating from the pack by moving backwards…be sure you know what’s in back of you or what might be poking up out of the ground. If you fall…you will most likely be a goner. When venturing out on a hike, in what could be called a ‘wilderness’ area, you need to pack, at the very least, a pistol. Check with game control to see if there might be a problem with predators…of any kind. Never, under any circumstances, underestimate the intelligence of wolves or their abilities. Unlike many predators, wolves will work together to make a kill and they are very good at it.

  • Excellent article! I’ve never read much on the subject. Quite useful info.

  • Thank you very much for this information. It was excellent. Your description (to hopefully walk away in one piece) is the same as coming upon a bear. Do not run, do not turn your back, back away slowly, try to make yourself look larger and make lots of noise. Do not show fear. To be honest, I would be scared to death if I met up with a pack of wolves (or a bear). How do you not show fear? At least, if you climb a tree the wolves cannot follow. Make sure you have a phone to call for help because otherwise you may be in that tree for a long time. I am glad to know that wolves do not usually attack people; however, I believe there have been coy-wolves spotted where I live a few times over the years. I have heard they are very aggressive and smart. I guess that makes sense. Both Coyotes and wolves are very intelligent predators.

  • My German Shepherds paw tracks in soft mud look like a combo between the wolf and coyote, in a SHTF situation I imagine his tracks would deter the uneducated, and un-armed.

  • I will probably never encounter any wild animals like those mentioned in this article, but I did enjoy reading it. I would hope/trust that anyone going into such woods would always carry some sort of gun or bow and arrow! If in the woods one may not have a signal to use a cell phone to summon help, but it’s a good thing to take it with you anyway.

    • Hello, Barbara!
      We are glad that you liked the article. Hope you’ll find the others as entertaining and helpful as this one.
      Alex, from Survivopedia!

  • Well I have been surrounded by wild dogs, and I was very afraid indeed. I was 16 at the time, and grew up with hunting dogs since I was a young child, and I know how dogs attack. At minimum you will have one in front of you, but more likely 2 or 3, which will alternate with feigning attacks. The others will spread out in a circle to flank you and get to your rear. The real attacks will come from the rear 60 degree arc. As you rotate, they will switch who is feigning and who is attacking. Unfortunately at that time I only had a small folding knife. It was hard to tell how many there were, but it was at least 6 or 7. It was an extremely stressful event. I picked up a decent sized rock. I constantly was yelling, screaming, and erratically changing my facing while trying to get out of the deep woods I was in. It took me about 3 hours to extract myself. I could barely speak once I finally got home. I lived in Upstate NY and we have thousands of acres of woods up there. Anyway, I was very lucky. I would not want to be killed by canines. They will first try and get you on the ground, their favorite initial targets will be your hamstrings and achilles tendon. Then once you are down and being stretched, they will attack your throat and groin. Yeah, they know anatomy. Never underestimate an animals intelligence. I grew up on a farm, cows, pigs, dogs, horses, those are all more intelligent than most people give credit to. Chickens, well they are pretty dumb, but damn vicious. If chickens were 6 feet tall, humans wouldn’t exist.
    When I go into the woods now, I am packing a 44 mag, maybe a shotgun or rifle if I am hunting, at least one large knife, probably two and my tomahawk.

  • After reading the posts, it sounds like the only way to be really safe is to go into wolf/bear country in an Abrams A1 Battle Tank.

  • Wouldn’t t be wiser not to go into the woods alone. Period. If you’re not able to own a firearm, you could carry a flare pistol. At the very least you must carry a knife. in my humble opinion.

  • In case you are ever starving in the wilderness I heard a story about how to attract and kill a wold. An Indian will cut himself and smear blood all over the knife and then jam the butt end into the ground and wait. Animals smell blood for miles away and will be drawn to the knife. The wolf will gladly lick up the blook and cut his tongue in the process and so the taste of fresh blood keeps him licking until he dies. (A story I read somewhere)

  • I read a contradiction here on what to do to escape wolves You state: “In these cases, you are usually best served by making yourself as small as quiet as possible so that the animal will leave you alone. If you make noise with these kinds of animals, throw things at them, or make yourself appear larger, there is a much higher chance they will attack and kill you”. Yet in another paragraph you say: “Instead of running away, the best thing you can do is make yourself seem as big and threatening as possible. You can yell, jump up and down, throw things, and make other loud noises”. So which is it??

  • Dee, I believe the advice to be as small and quiet as possible refers to animals who are protecting their young, while the advice to be as big and threatening as possible is for wolves or other animals who are attacking for meat or territory. I guess you have to figure out if the animal’s goal is defensive or offensive.

  • How about putting an handheld bug zapper racket against their very sensitive wet noses or let them have a bite with their wet mouth….?