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16-year-old wolf attack survivor surviving media bite

MONTE DRAPER Noah Graham, 16, of Solway, demonstrates how he reached back and fought off a wolf attack last Saturday at a campground near Lake Winnibigoshish.1 / 2
A 75 lb. gray wolf wildlife experts suspect bit a 16-year-old Solway boy Saturday at Lake Winnibigoshish campground has tested negative for rabies, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Thursday. The wolf was trapped and killed Monday at the site of the attack.2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- Reporters: Stop calling Noah Graham.

The 16-year-old who survived a wolf attack last weekend has been fielding calls from national media outlets since his story ran in the Pioneer on Tuesday. And he'd like for things to go back to normal now.

"I am ready for it to be done, I suppose," he said by phone Thursday.

But, unfortunately for Graham, this thing isn't done yet. That's because Thursday brought two bits of news. One, the wolf trapped and killed Monday after the attack was not rabid, fueling speculation as to the reason for the incident at a campground at Lake Winnibigoshish.

Two, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources remains unsure that the wolf they captured and killed was Graham's attacker.

"I didn't really think it was that big of a deal at the time," he said.

Tell that to the press. Since Monday's paper hit news outlets and, more precisely, the Pioneer's website, the story went semi-viral. Newspapers and television news outlets from throughout the state and country picked up the story. In a press conference call Monday, officials with the DNR fielded questions from nearly a dozen reporters, all of whom wanted to know two things: Why'd the wolf attack, and who's the kid?

The answer to the former is still undetermined. A sweatshirt Graham was wearing during the attack and a blanket from the campsite were sent to the University of California-Davis for DNA testing, the DNR said Thursday. Lab workers there will try to match hair on the items to the wolf in question. And the answer to the most pressing question reporters had on Monday is constantly-on-the-phone Noah Graham.

After the initial story broke, news outlets and media websites nationally and internationally jumped on the bandwagon. Noah's tale was featured on CNN and The Today Show, among others.

"I've had five (calls) from TV," he said, "and I still have two, no wait, three radio things to do and I talked to a magazine today."

Generally speaking, more people read the story, and stayed on the page twice as long, than average, according to stats from the Pioneer's website.

But, the reason for the story's popularity is less easily determined. Maybe it was Graham's laid-back demeanor, maybe it was the controversy surrounding state-approved wolf hunts, maybe it was the spiritual aura that has enveloped the creature for centuries, or, perhaps, it could be the part where the wolf tried to eat Graham from the top down.

Come to think of it, it's probably that last one. And as long as we're thinking about an animal that can produce hundreds of pounds-per-square-inch of pressure with each bite, it's worth noting that for all Graham's coolness, he's in quite a bit of pain.

"I'm still pretty sore," he said. "Sleeping is hard."

And it's made harder by reporters.

"I get about four hours of sleep every night. I wake up to calls and I go to sleep with calls," Graham said. "I'm over it. It's not a big deal."

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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