UPDATE: Medical examiners confirmed that Candice Berner died form injuries sustained in an animal attack. It has been concluded that the animals most likely responsible for the attack are wolves.
Wolves just can't stay out of the news even to help their own case—and this one certainly won't help at all. Wolves are being blamed in the predatory killing of Candice Berner, a 32-year-old school teacher found Monday evening along a remote road near Chignik Lake, on Alaska's northern peninsula.
Snowmobilers noticed a pool of blood in the road surrounded by wolf and human footprints. They followed blood tracks to Berner's body, which was found buried beneath brush. Her arms and head were badly mangled, and while officials confirmed finding signs of predation on the body, they don't know whether it occurred during or after the attack, and they can't positively identify the type of animal.
Residents have complained of seeing wolf packs act bolder than usual, perhaps because of lower caribou and moose populations. After Berner's attack, wolves were reported back in the area, possibly looking to return to the body. Teams of locals headed out on snowmachines in hopes of hunting down the wolves, but they've been unsuccessful so far.
Chignik Lake has a dense population of brown bears, but wildlife officials note a bear attack would be extremely rare this early in the season. An autopsy is expected to rule today on the cause of death, but that probably won't include the type of animal, if the cause is identified as a predatory animal attack.
Wolf attacks on humans are exceedingly rare, but they court controversy wherever they roam—especially in Alaska, where BACKPACKER Contributing Editor Tracy Ross covered the controversy in 2009's "Dogs of War."