Wolf Attack: Fellow Camper Saves Family of 4
Russ Chastain 08.14.19
An American family of 4 were enjoying a night of tent camping at Rampart Creek Campground in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada on August 8, 2019 when a large wolf attacked them as they slept.
It was every bit as horrific as it sounds. Matt and Elisa Rispoli of New Jersey were snoozing with their two young sons when they were awakened by the attacking wolf. As they began to conceive the threat, Matt put himself between the hungry predator and his wife and children. Elisa lay on top of her sons to shield them as Matt fought with the beast.
Elisa wrote on Facebook that Matt “fought the wolf as it ripped apart our tent and his arms and hands” and said they “were screaming for help as he was fighting it and trying to save us, for what felt like an eternity (but I think was anywhere from 1-3 minutes).”
Matt pinned the wolf to the ground and held open its jaw with his hands, and the wolf started to drag Matt away, while I was pulling on his legs trying to get him back. I cannot and don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly describe the terror.
It was then that a good Samaritan intervened. SFGate reports that a nearby camper named Russ Fee “woke up to the sound of frantic shouts coming from a campsite next to his” and when he realized they were calling for help, he sprinted towards the danger, not knowing what to expect.
As he neared the campsite, he had a hard time believing what he saw: the rear end of a wolf was outside his neighbors’ tent and he could tell the beast was pulling at something inside the tent as if it were “pulling on a toy.” He had no way of knowing that “toy” was a father fighting tooth and nail — literally — to save his family.
All he held was a lantern, but thankfully he had put his shoes on before running to the rescue; one of those became his only weapon.
I just kind of kept running at it and I just kicked it… in the back hip area like I was kicking in a door. I booted it as hard as I could.
It was time for Russ and the wolf to both be surprised; the predator released Matt and emerged from the tent to face Russ, who said he “immediately regretted kicking it” and added “I felt like I had kind of punched someone that was way out of my weight class.”
Before anything else could happen, a bloody Matt burst out of the tent (his “whole half side was just covered in blood”) and he and Russ began hurling large rocks at the canine, which refused to go far. When it finally did retreat a little, the family made a dash for Russ’s van — with the vicious animal still following Matt, whose blood he could still taste. They all made it safely inside the van and the wolf finally retreated.
The next day, Elisa wrote:
The rest of the night is a blur of EMTs, good Samaritans, waiting for treatment, no phone service and crying. But here we are in Banff hospital, where Matt’s puncture wounds, and lacerations on his hands and arms have been treated and he’s ok. We are pretty traumatized but ok.
She credited Russ Fee with saving her husband’s life.
[W]e are forever grateful to Russ who came to our aid and likely saved Matt’s life.
The campground was closed and evacuated, and the morning after the attack a wolf was found and killed about a half-mile from the scene of the attack. DNA tests confirmed it was the same wolf, and the campground was reopened.
Matt also needed a series of Rabies shots.
The Rispolis didn’t do anything that might have attracted the wolf, which was “in poor condition and likely nearing the end of its natural life span” according to a government news release, which also said, “The wolf’s condition was likely a contributing factor for its unusual behaviour and this remains a very rare incident.”
There was no food or anything else that usually attracts wildlife found around or inside the Rispolis’ tent, officials said, but they noted that the wolf’s physical state may have played a part in the attack, according to CBC.
Seems to me this would have played out much better if Matt and Russ had been armed. But in the end I guess we have a happy ending of sorts… although Matt isn’t likely to do any more tent camping, according to a post on Instagram:
The Lakes in Alberta and BC are amazing, the mountains are dynamic, the wild life is (well you know). I’m sure I’ll be back some day but maybe in a camper van instead.
Hopefully this will awaken some folks in Canada so they’ll allow campers and other visitors to be armed. But I’m not holding my breath…