A rabid she-wolf recently went on a rampage in Tiberias, biting at least ten individuals before being shot dead by a member of United Hatzalah last Thursday.
The attack, which occurred on the city’s promenade and near Kibbutz Ginosar, was a frightening reminder of the rare but growing danger of rabies in Israel’s north.
The wolf, which witnesses say showed no outward signs of being rabid, attacked its victims unprovoked, including a man and a woman outside their own apartment as well as a father and his daughter near the entrance to the kibbutz.
Kobi Itzik was outside a popular Tiberias hotel when he and another woman were attacked.
“It really looked like a wolf, not a dog, and then [it] jumped on me and bit my leg,” Itzik said. “I struggled with the animal and slammed it against a wall, but it wouldn’t get off me; it was really strong. Then it ran off, and later I realized that it bit other people as well.”
According to ecologist Amit Dolev, this unusual behavior is common in rabid animals.
“Biting people without fear is a classic sign of rabies. Wolves don’t generally attack people,” Dolev stressed.
At autopsy, suspicions of rabies were confirmed in the she-wolf. All those who came in contact with the animal were properly treated for light injuries and possible infection.
The incident follows a similar attack last year in the Golan Heights, where nine hikers were bitten by a rabid animal, and draws attention to the risk of the rising number of rabies reports in Israel’s northern region.
While no human infections of rabies have been reported in Israel since 2003, incidents of rabies has increased in Israel in recent years, thanks to an exploding jackal population and infected dogs migrating from the Syrian border.
To combat the risk of rabies and rabies related attacks, the Nature and Parks Authority has instituted an aggressive oral vaccination program, targeting foxes, jackals and other wildlife likely to be infected by the rabies virus.