‘Like a Horror Movie’: Family of 4 Recounts Savage Wolf Attack in Banff National Park
OutdoorHub Reporters 08.15.19
An family of 4 Americans were enjoying a night of camping at Rampart Creek Campground in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada on August 8, 2019 when a large wolf attacked them in the middle of the night. And from the sound of their story, it was every bit as horrifying as it sounds.
Don’t read this one for a bedtime story!
Matt and Elisa Rispoli, of New Jersey, were fast asleep in a tent with their two sons when they were blindly attacked by a wolf. Without wasting any time deciphering the threat, Matt instantly put himself between the hungry predator, his wife and children.
Elisa later 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 “guardian angel” from the tent site next to them intervened.
SFGate reports 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 he was going to be faced with.
As he approached the Rispoli’s campsite, he almost didn’t believe what he was seeing: 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 the “toy” was a father fighting teeth and nail — literally — to save his family.
All Russ was able to grab while rushing to help was a lantern, but thankfully he slipped his shoes on before running to the rescue; one of those would soon become his only way of defending himself and the Rispolis.
“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.”
The predator then released Matt, and emerged from the tent to get a go at 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.”
But before the wolf could make a move, Matt burst out of the tent covered in blood and joined Russ in hurling large rocks at the canine – who refused to let them out of its sight. When it finally did retreat a little, the family made a dash for Russ’s van — with the vicious animal still tailing Matt, whose blood he could still taste. They all made it safely inside the van and the wolf finally moved on.
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. Listen to Russ explain his side of the story in the CBC video below:
The very next morning, the campground was closed and evacuated. The wolf believed to be responsible for the attack was successfully found and killed about a half-mile from the scene of the attack. DNA tests confirmed it was in fact the same wolf, and the campground was safely reopened.
Matt also needed a series of Rabies shots following the savage attack.
The Rispolis say they 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 behavior 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.”
Hopefully this will awaken some folks in Canada so they’ll allow campers and other visitors to be armed in the unpredictable wilderness.