Sad news: Alaska state troopers and medical examiners confirmed today that teacher Candice Berner was killed on Monday by a predatory animal attack, most likely perpetrated by wolves. State wildlife authorities are headed to the region in an attempt to capture or kill the animals responsible.
In publishing their conclusions, investigators cite the preponderance of wolf tracks and activity around Chignik Lake, and note that the bite marks occurred while the victim was alive. The method of attack is consistent with wolf predation in large mammals.
"She was bleeding as she was being moved, being drug, and the damage to the throat," (Alaska troopers director Col. Audie) Holloway said. "The medical examiner concluded that she wasn't killed by any other method and that the damage to the throat was severe. There were animal bite marks on the throat.
"Wolves, just like big cats, usually attack the wind pipe area and try to control the victim that way."
Wildlife officials hope to obtain wolf DNA to both help identify the culprits and to help study the incident. They think the victim, who was running at the time, might've triggered a prey response in two or three wolves, who could've stalked her unnoticed, as she listened to her iPod. She didn't go quietly: There was a chase and subsequent struggle that lasted 150 feet before the wolves dragged Berner off the trail.
This is only the second recorded human fatality by wolves in North America; the first, in Saskatchewan, was controversial, with many experts believing the guilty party to be a black bear.
Berner's father, Bob, says he doesn't bear any ill will toward wolves.
"They're just doing what wolves do," Berner said. "Their nature happened to kill my daughter, but I don't have any anger towards wolves."
The same can't be said for Chignik Lake residents, who now avoid walking alone and escort their children to school. Get ready: If we know anything about wolves, it's that this is just the first chapter in a whole new saga of wolf controversy in Alaska.