Russian wolves can breathe a sigh of relief after local government officials stepped into provide alternative travel arrangements for a band of axe wielding school children.

The daily school run is now a permanent fixture in the lives of families all over the world. However, there is a small district in the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan where the term ‘school run’ has had an entirely different meaning.

Burzyansky District, with a population of just under 17,000, experiences harsh winters for
those hardy enough to live there. Earlier this week the  Moscow Times reported that five children, some as young as 11, from the little village of Verkhniy Nuhush, make a 10km trip through the snow to a school in Galiakberova.

The pupils have to make the journey through dense snow, some armed with axes, to protect themselves from wild bears and wolves who live in the forest. Fortunately, the pupils stay with friends and relatives during the school week before returning to their own families at the weekend.

Wolf searching in snow
A dejected Barry was coming to terms that he may never find his lost keys (Wikimedia).

It was only after publicizing the issue online that parents were able to find a safer alternative for the children. The local prosecutor’s office has now promised that a 4-wheel-drive vehicle will be made available for the pupils.

A happy ending for everyone then but just how common are wolf attacks and do they pose a real danger? Our extensive research has revealed that wolf attacks really aren’t all that common in Europe where rabies has been eradicated. However, figures elsewhere certainly show that it does happen. Lithuanian records indicate that 22 individuals were bitten by rabid wolves between 1989-2001.

Latvia records much higher numbers for roughly the same period, 72 incidents of biting were catalogued between 1992-2000.

wolf howling
Ostracised from the pack Kevin stubbornly refused to stop howling Hall & Oates classics (Wikimedia)

How about Russia though? This article describes a state of emergency being declared in Siberia as recently as 2013. Apparently, a super-pack of up to 400 wolves laid siege to the town of Verkhoyansk where severe winter conditions and a shortage of food were attributed to the mass-migration of wolves. Wolves will normally hunt in packs of six or seven animals which shows how extraordinary these huge numbers are.

wolves
Leonard and the pack sighed collectively as Gordon recounted another Costner anecdote (Wikimedia).

Despite these inflated numbers, there was no reported increase of attacks on humans. There have been wolf attacks on livestock though and 2012 government figures show that 16,000 domestic reindeer and 300 horses were killed.  These attacks are extremely costly for local farmers when you consider each reindeer alone is worth 10,000 roubles ($151).