Northern miner 'heroic'
(Note: Heroic must be a synonym for SURVIVOR, for this man is a survivor. Unlike the description by Kimm Barker, Cameco's Key Lake 'safety officer', a wolf is NOT a 'big dog'. Wolves attack and KILL. 'Big dogs', they are NOT. This man was not ready to die at 55 years of age, although he's suffering from stress / trauma as well as from the physical injuries. God bless Fred Desjarlais! Every 'wolf lover' should see the photo of his injuries and read this article!)
January 4, 2005
By Darren Bernhardt, The StarPhoenix
Fort St. John - network

A Saskatoon man's evening jog became a struggle for his life in northern Saskatchewan when a timber wolf lunged at his head and sunk its teeth into his leg.

With his adrenaline surging, Fred Desjarlais, 55, was able to fight off several attacks by the large predator before jumping on its back and wrestling it into submission long enough for a passing busload of co-workers to arrive and scare the beast away.

"I don't know what came over me or how I did it. All I know is I had his head and I wasn't letting go until someone came to help me," said Desjarlais, a soft-spoken man who works for Cameco Corp.'s uranium milling facility in Key Lake, about 640 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

He was recovering Monday at his Saskatoon home and suffering from bouts of post-traumatic stress that have stolen his sleep.

"I try not to dwell on it too much or I can't rest at all," said Desjarlais, who is planning on seeing a specialist this week for help.

At one point in the tilt, he and the wolf were face to face as the beast went up on its hind legs and looked down at Desjarlais.

"He had a big mouth and a big head, I know that much."

"It was a bad attack -- it bit him twice really badly -- but Fred's a remarkable man and very heroic," said Kimm Barker, Cameco's Key Lake safety officer. "It wasn't a very smart wolf because of all the people it could have picked, it chose one of the strongest."

It was New Year's Eve and Desjarlais had just finished his shift at 7 p.m. Instead of catching the shuttle back to the camp facility (temporary residence for workers) he decided to jog the three kilometres. Along the way he heard something and glanced back just as the animal crept out of the ditch and walked toward him.

"He was taunting me, (walking) in a circle around me," Desjarlais said. "I looked around real quick and thought, 'I hope he's alone.' He was, as far as I could see."

Desjarlais hollered and tried to scare the animal off, but then it lunged at his head. He jumped to the side and dodged it but the wolf came back.

"That's when I knew he meant business," said Desjarlais, who eluded a second lunge, but the wolf quickly spun around and got to the man's back, biting into his shoulder area.

Fortunately, Desjarlais was wearing several layers of clothing which prevented the bite from breaking the skin, but it did leave significant bruising.

Fred Desjarlais shows one of several wolf bites he received on New Year's Eve. Photo credit: Greg Pender, The StarPhoenix.


The wolf then turned its attention to Desjarlais' lower body and ripped into his jeans, biting twice around the pelvic area.

"He knew he was in deep trouble so he jumped on the wolf's back and tried to subdue it," said Barker.

They both fell over and got back up.

When his chance came again, Desjarlais made good.

He locked onto the wolf's back and threw his arms around the animal's head, putting it into a headlock.

"I pulled him down the way you would take down cattle (for roping) and I dropped onto his head, pinning him there," said Desjarlais, who held on 30-40 seconds before coworkers returning to camp on the bus spotted the pair.

"He was pretty much at the end of his string. His strength was draining," said Barker.

The men jumped out and scared the wolf away then carried Desjarlais into one of the on-site medical facilities. He also suffered numerous scrapes and bruises from rolling around.

He was stitched and transferred by air ambulance to Saskatoon's Royal University Hospital (RUH) where he was treated and released without needing to be admitted overnight.

"He may not be the tallest guy around -- he's only 5-foot-9 -- but Fred is extremely strong. He manhandled this thing," Barker said. "If it had happened to anybody else, we wouldn't have had quite as good of an outcome. Fred probably saved somebody else's life because if it wasn't him it would have been the next guy on the road."

Barker estimates the wolf weighed "at least" 100 pounds and was taller than Desjarlais when it stood on its hind legs.

"It's a big dog. And it was extremely aggressive," he said. "And the canine teeth which bit into Fred were at least an inch long."

Wolves are common to the Key Lake site, but it is rare they interact with the people. Most travel in packs and run from humans.

"But if they get kicked out of the pack for some reason or leave the pack because they are ill, that's when they become a problem," said Barker.

There is the occasional incident, such as in 1984 when one animal ran up and stole a sandwich from the hand of a worker. They are probably attracted by the readily available food. Although garbage is dumped and covered, the animals dig it up.

"We're not supposed to burn [garbage] for environmental reasons," said Barker.

The wolf that attacked Desjarlais was tracked that same night with no luck.

The next day it was located near the site of the incident, sitting in the same place.

It was shot and killed and is being sent to a Saskatchewan Environment lab for testing.

Fluid samples collected from the area of the attack and from Desjarlais will be used to match against the animal that was shot.

Desjarlais has told Cameco that he'll return to work next week, as long as it doesn't interfere with the rabies shots and other medications he must take.

Copyright 2005,


Related article:


Wolf attacks Saskatchewan man


January 4, 2005

Fred Desjarlais

By CBC News Online staff.


Regina, Saskatchewan - A man in Saskatchewan is recovering after being attacked by a timber wolf on New Year's Eve.


Fred Desjarlais was coming home from his job at Key Lake, about 550 kilometres north of Saskatoon, when the wolf lunged at him from the ditch.
A Canadian gray (or timber) wolf. (CP photo)

Desjarlais said the wolf bit him several times on the back, arm, leg and groin.

He grabbed it around the neck and tried to wrestle it into submission. A busload of his co-workers showed up and helped chase the wolf away.

Desjarlais received stitches and was taken to a hospital where he has been undergoing a series of rabies shots. The wolf was later shot and is being tested for rabies.

Unprovoked attacks on humans by healthy wolves are rare among the roughly 70,000 wolves that live in Canada and Alaska, according to a 2002 study by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.


Copyright 2005, CPC News.


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