Kenton Joel Carnegie Wolf Attack - Investigation - Official Investigation

Official Investigation

The RCMP determined that Kenton Carnegie's death was not the result of a homicide. This was important because Carnegie's parents had initially raised concerns that their son had been murdered. The family claimed their son's relationships with colleagues from Sander Geophysics (Chris Van Galder and Todd Svarckopf) at Points North Camp were very strained and tense. The official Government of Saskatchewan investigation was headed by internationally renowned carnivore biologist and behavioral ecologist Dr. Paul Paquet and RCMP forensic anthropologist Dr. Ernest Walker, who oversaw Carnegie's autopsy, which was performed by Dr. N. Brits in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Brits stated that Carnegie's injuries were consistent with those expected in a predatory animal attack. Paquet and Walker concluded that the only likely candidates were wolves and American black bears, as grizzly bears, cougars and free ranging dogs were not known to frequent the Points North area. The report, however, was equivocal as to which predator was responsible, noting that most of the evidence, all of which was circumstantial, was unavoidably confounded by search and recovery efforts. In addition, the report contended that a very poor primary assessment of the accident scene by an inexperienced police constable and local coroner further compromised the quality and reliability of the evidence. Included among the criticisms were investigative bias resulting from preconditioned expectations of a "wolf attack" at Points North, failure to secure the accident scene from intrusion of people and wildlife, a 20-hour delay in carrying out the site assessment during which time at least three wolves visited the site, failure to cast impressions of footwear so that tracks of searchers and investigators could be distinguished from those of the victim, failure to annotate digital images taken on the accident scene, and serious discrepancies in important details of the official police report. These unresolvable problems were compounded by changing stories from key witnesses, RCMP investigator Constable Noey, and local coroner Tsannie concerning important and significant aspects of events that occurred before, after, and during the accident.

"Lacking an eyewitness account, all we know for certain is that Carnegie's body was found on a lakeside trail near Points North Landing, a northern outpost with an airstrip. A large predator had scavenged him. We conclude from circumstantial evidence that Carnegie’s death was not a homicide as no indications of foul play were found at the scene of the accident. Moreover, we concur with the autopsy and forensic reports, which state unequivocally that no other signs, injuries, or cause of death, were observed other then those consistent with an animal attack. The type of wounds and feeding pattern confirm predation as the probable cause of death. Most likely, Carnegie was surprised by a violent predacious assault and sustained fatal wounds at an early stage during the attack. Although strong circumstantial evidence supports the determination of predation as the cause of death, it is inconclusive regarding the responsible predator. From all available information, Carnegie was the unfortunate victim of a haphazard accident." Paquet & Walker 2006

Two wolves from the area were killed about 56 hours after the accident by investigating conservation officers and taken for examination to the University of Saskatchewan. The digestive systems of both wolves were empty, except for a few small residual items. One of the wolves, a black and white 48 kg (106 lb) male, estimated to be 4–5 years of age, was found to have undigested plasticised fabric, small black hairs, and what appeared to be connective tissue within its colon and rectum, though lab analyses showed the latter to be vegetable matter. Microscopic examination suggested that the recovered hair was possibly human in origin. However, DNA analyis by the RCMP forensic lab rejected that assessment. Given the high quality and excellent condition of the tissue samples (hairs complete with roots), the RCMP concluded the hairs were not of human origin. The lab tested only for human DNA, so the complete absence of DNA is strong evidence that the sample was not human. Accordingly, no human remains were found in the digestive systems of the wolves thought to have killed and fed on Carnegie.

There was no indication of rabies, nor was there any morphological indication suggesting it was a wolf-dog hybrid. The animal was described in the necropsy report as being very fat, well muscled and in excellent nutritional condition. Paquet later stated that "these were the healthiest wolves I've ever seen." Although he noted that "no definitive animal sign was evident in any of the images taken the night of the accident", he noted that wolf, fox, and bear tracks were visible on the photos taken the following day of the surrounding area. The tracks were identified by noted wildlife experts Dr. L. David Mech, Dr. Vince Crichton, Tim Trottier, Dr. Michael Gibeau, and Wayne McRory. These images,taken 20–22 hours after the attack occurred, also showed unidientified shoe prints of several people. Paquet and Walker stated that the body had been dragged 50–60 metres as reported by RCMP Constable Noey, Burseth, and Eikel, as well as physically measured by Paquet at the scene. This suggested but did not confirm a black bear culprit, as black bears often drag their prey away from the initial kill and feeding site, especially following disturbances by people. In Paquet's own extensive experience and that of other wolf biologists, wolves are virtually unknown to drag larger prey (i.e. more than 40 kg) more than a few metres.

"With natural prey, dragging of large bodies is a characteristic behaviour of bears but not wolves. Wolves commonly carry small prey (5 – 15 kg) such as deer fawns (Odocoileus sp.) and caribou (Rangifer tarandus) calves away from the site of attack before killing them (pers. observation). Likewise, in India small children preyed on by wolves are often carried away from the attack site (Rajpurohit 1999, Jhala pers. comm.) Two or more wolves are certainly capable of dragging a 70 kg body more than 50 m. In our experience, however, when more than 1 wolf is involved in a kill of a large bodied animal (>40 kg), dragging is seldom directionally coordinated because individual wolves usually tug from different directions. From our records of more than 1,500 deer, elk (Cervus elaphus), moose, and caribou killed by wolves, dragging the carcass more than 10 m occurred less than 1% of the time. The longest straight-line drag distance recorded was about 32 m, and this was a deer carcass placed on a frozen lake as bait. In comparison, nearly all of the 119 bear kills of elk and moose we investigated showed signs of dragging, although distances were more difficult to determine because of the absence of snow. Nevertheless, bears moved many carcasses more than 50 m. U.S. Fish and Wildlife records of large carnivores dragging carcasses support our observations. Of 300 recorded kills, in only 4 cases did wolves drag ungulate carcasses in the snow more than 10 m. All the bear kills located were dragged some distance (> 30 m) away from where the initial fatal attack occurred (M. Jimenez and E. Bangs pers. comm.). Based on examination of 2,173 wolf kills in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, dragging of carcasses was an extremely rare phenomenon and never exceeded 15 m (D. Smith pers. comm.).

Review of Investigative Findings Relating to the Death of Kenton Carnegie at Points North, Saskatchewan by Dr. Paul Paquet, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, and Dr. Ernest G. Walker, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 8 August 2008"

Paquet and Walker also pointed to the fact that Carnegie's heart, lungs and liver were intact, stating that in Paquet's experience and that of other wolf experts, wolves usually eat those organs and surrounding fat first. Moreover, the stomach, intestines, and kidneys were consumed first, which Paquet stated is unusual for wolves consuming wild prey. Consumption of these organs, however, is consistent with documented descriptions of black bears feeding on humans, especially victims who had recently consumed a meal. Notably, Carnegie ate lunch just before leaving on his walk. Paquet and Walker noted, however, that due to the scarcity of documented wolf attacks in North America, it would be difficult to discern what a wolf attack would look like. Mark McNay agreed.

““Any remaining arguments about specific patterns of feeding, body position, clothing removal, and wounds will likely not be resolved because the patterns of wolves killing and feeding on humans as live prey are undocumented, and because even with natural prey the patterns related to those factors overlap between wolves and bears..”

— "A Review of Evidence and Findings Related to the Death of Kenton Carnegie on 8 November 2005 Near Points North, Saskatchewan" by Mark E. McNay, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Fairbanks, Alaska, 25 May 2007

This point of agreement is of profound significance because it confirms that interpretation of the circumstantial evidence found at the scene is fraught with irresolvable uncertainty. In this regard, Patterson commented that "... based on the material I did see it seemed less plausible that a bear was responsible than wolves, but I acknowledge that barring an actual eyewitness account a definitive answer will remain elusive."

Similarly equivosal, but favoring the bear theory, bear specialist Wayne McRory concluded that a black bear was the probable predator after reviewing the physical evidence. Paquet's telephone consultations with bear expert Dr. Stephen Herrero came to the same conclusion: Herrero believed the responsible predator was likely a black bear.

Paul Paquet was quoted in an issue of the National Wildlife magazine;

“The clothes and skin been stripped away, indicating the so-called banana-peel eating technique common to bears”

— Dr. Paul Paquet, Sexy Beasts from National Wildlife Feb/Mar 2007, vol. 45 no. 2

The time of day of the attack was also claimed to be consistent with documented bear predation on humans;

“From a temporal perspective, fatal bear attacks often occur in the late afternoon and in the fall before denning. No similar pattern of attacks have been shown for wolves.”

Review of Investigative Findings Relating to the Death of Kenton Carnegie at Points North, Saskatchewan by Dr. Paul Paquet, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, and Dr. Ernest G. Walker, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 8 August 2008

Paquet and Walker also identified claw marks on the body, something inconsistent with wolves, which attack with their teeth. The claw marks were clearly distinguishable because the corresponding marks of lower and upper jaws that characterize bite wounds were absent from the body. Based on examination of bite impressions from 100 adult wolves and 100 adult black bears, Paquet and Walker concluded that it was difficult to reliably differentiate the bite marks of wolves and bears, as the canine teeth of adult wolves can leave near identical marks to those of similarly sized black bears. In addition, only 2 bite marks were clearly discernible on the body. Both were post- or peri-mortem and the canine teeth did not penetrate the skin. There were no impressions of pre-molars, which are characteristic of wounds caused by wolves In their report, Paquet and Walker stated that based on well described wolf behaviours (body postures, position of the lips, position of the ears, position of the tail), the 3 wolves shown in the photographs taken by Chris Van Galder were either relaxed or behaving defensively in response to a provocation by Svarckopf. Further, Svarckopf is shown relaxed and laughing in one of the images. Paquet questioned the reliability of interviews with the local constable and coroner, as well as members of the search party, due to numerous incongruities and his awareness that eyewitnesses were "notoriously unreliable". Accordingly, inconsistencies, contradictions, and changing witness and investigator statements on critical points of evidence raised concerns about the credibility and reliability of the investigators and witnesses. Paquet and Walker's report listed 14 biologists who were consulted, including well known wolf and bear biologists in North America and Europe, though it did not identify who examined the available evidence. The investigative report by Paquet and Walker was met with criticism by the Carnegie family and their representatives. Todd Svarckopf, Chris Van Galder, Mark Eikel and Bob Burseth, who were the first four witnesses, saw the scene before it was disturbed by repeat visits by themselves and later visits from the coroner, two game wardens and the RCMP. According to Geist, all the witnesses stated in private interviews that the animals they saw on the scene, as well as the tracks in the snow, were wolves. However, Geist's claim is contradicted by the official police interviews. None of the witnesses remembered seeing any animals at the scene, although all witnesses reported observing wolf tracks. Bob Burseth, an employee of Points North Camp and a hunter who was frequently involved in tracking and killing of aggressive problem bears near Points North, confirmed that had bears been in the area, he would have known. He also stated that he knew the differences between bear and wolf tracks, and was adamant that on that night he saw only wolf prints. Burseth's wife, aboriginal Coroner Rosalie Tsannie-Burseth Aboriginal, found no bear tracks and stated there were only wolf tracks. However, contrary to claims in McNay's report, neither Bob Burseth or Rosalie Tsannie-Ruseth identified fox tracks at the scene, although fox tracks were clearly evident in the images taken at the accident scene by Constable Noey. This failure to notice what were clear and obvious tracks raised serious concerns for government investigators about the reliability of Burseth's and Tsannie-Burseth's other observations. Constable Noey, an RCMP officer, originally claimed that some wolf prints were placed directly within Carnegie's prints, a behaviour some incorrectly believe is associated with wolves stalking prey. However, when queried by RCMP investigators from Major Crimes, he changed his story to say he was not certain that was the case. Conservation Officers Kelly Crayne and Mario Gaudet, who investigated the accident site two days after the event and several snowfalls, wrote in their report "Officers investigated the site and found numerous wolf tracks in the area. No other large animal tracks could be found."

Bears had not been sighted at Points North Camp for over a month, as the death occurred during what some suggest is their annual hibernation cycle. Nonetheless, there were many confirmed sightings of black bears in the region throughout October and early November, including nearby Cigar Lake Mine and Rabbit Lake Mine. The Fall of 2005 was the second warmest on record and temperature influences the time of denning. In addition, aggressive and garbage-conditioned bears were a chronic problem at Points North Camp during September and early October, as well as previous years. Accordingly, McNay states that a problem bear was killed near the Points North Camp kitchen in September 2005, although SERM issued no permit to kill a bear, which is a legal requirement in the Province of Saskatchewan. In addition, the claimed killing of an aggressive problem black bear was never reported to SERM, so the fate of the animal(s)is unknown.

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