LONG VALLEY, NJ — “It was like something out of a horror movie.” That’s how a Morris County mom described a recent camping trip, where her family was attacked by a wolf.
And it was her husband who used his bare hands and large rocks to fight off the wolf that wanted to attack his family in Canada last week. When the ferocious animal tried to drag him off, a “guardian angel” named Russ arrived and saved everybody.
Elisa Rispoli, her husband Matt, and their two kids were camping in Banff National Park when the attack happened last Thursday night, she said in a Facebook post. The family was asleep when the wolf attacked, she said, ripping through their tent to get to them.
“Matt literally threw his body in front of me and the boys, and fought the wolf as it ripped apart our tent and his arms and hands. We were screaming for help as he was fighting it and trying to save us, for what felt like an eternity,” Rispoli said, adding that, in reality, likely only three minutes passed.
While Matt Rispoli kept the wolf away from the children, Elisa Rispoli shielded them with her body, she said.
“I laid my body on top of the kids and 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,” Elisa Rispoli said. “I cannot and don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly describe the terror.”
The wolf began to drag Matt Rispoli away from the campsite when a “guardian angel” heard the family screaming.
The angel was Russ Fee, a Calgary native camping nearby with his wife. He told a Canadian radio station his first instinct upon seeing the wolf was to kick it as hard as possible. That scared the wolf into dropping Rispoli, but Fee said he felt like he had “punched someone that was way out of my weight class.”
The wolf began to come after Rispoli again, and Fee and Rispoli threw large rocks at the wolf until it was far enough back to allow the family to seek shelter.
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“The rest of the night is a blur of EMTs, good Samaritans, waiting for treatment, no phone service and crying,” Elisa Rispoli said. Matt Rispoli was treated for puncture wounds and lacerations, and said that although the family is traumatized, they are okay. (The Rispoli family did not respond to Patch’s request for comment.)
“It could have been so so much worse, and we are just feeling so thankful that we are all still sitting here as a complete family,” Elisa Rispoli said. “Matt is our absolute hero (I mean, way more than he normally was) and we are forever grateful to Russ who came to our aid and likely saved Matt’s life.”
Parks Canada closed the park following the attack, and the wolf was euthanized. DNA testing confirmed the euthanized wolf was the same one that attacked the family, Parks officials told the Calgary Herald. They said the wolf appeared to be near the end of its life, and that could explain the wolf’s off behavior.
Wolf attacks are rare, the Washington Post reported. Over a 60-year period ending in 2002, only four people were seriously attacked or injured by a wolf in Canada. This is the first time a person was hurt by a wolf at Canadian national park.