By Leah Asmelash, CNN
(CNN) — A New Jersey family at a campground in Canada’s Banff National Park was attacked by a wolf that they said tried to drag the father out of their tent.
The family was in the Rampart Creek Campground — along Highway 93 a 160-mile drive from Calgary — when the incident occurred around 1 a.m. Friday, according to a report by the federal agency Parks Canada.
Elisa wrote that her husband, Matthew, threw himself in front of her and their two boys while the wolf tore through the tent and clamped onto Matthew’s arms.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly describe the terror,” she wrote.
The wolf was starting to drag Matthew away when a neighboring camper, Russ Fee, heard the family’s screams and jumped in to help.
“The screams were so intense that I knew it was obviously a terrible situation,” Fee told CNN affiliate CBC. “So I just kind of kept running at [the wolf], and I just kicked it sort of in the back hip area.”
Fee said he immediately regretted kicking the wolf, because he was afraid it would attack him next, but it did make the animal release Matthew. As the wolf jumped out of the tent, Matthew followed it, and he and Fee started screaming and throwing rocks at it.
Meanwhile, Elisa and the two boys ran toward Fee’s minivan.
The Rispolis eventually made it to a nearby hospital, where Matthew’s wounds were treated. Elisa wrote that he had puncture wounds and lacerations on his hands, but he’s doing fine. Matthew was the only one who was injured in the attack.
“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,” she wrote.
Elisa Rispoli didn’t respond to a request for further comment.
Incidents like these are extremely rare. This is the first reported wolf attack on humans at a national site, according to Parks Canada, though there have been attacks in provincial parks: one in British Columbia and one in Ontario.
Lesley Matheson, a spokeswoman for Parks Canada, said that no significant wildlife attractants or food were found inside or in the immediate vicinity of the tent.
The campground was closed for a few days while Parks Canada investigated the incident. It reopened Monday after park staff tracked and killed the animal, verifying that it was the right one through DNA testing.
It’s unclear why the wolf was attracted to this family, Matheson said. Veterinary tests confirmed that the wolf was in “poor condition” and nearing the end of its life, which was probably a contributing factor in its behavior, Parks Canada said.
Though Fee told the CBC that the animal was “so much larger than any dog I’ve ever seen,” Matheson said the wolf was underweight for its age, 78 pounds compared with the usual 100- to 150-pound range. Tests for rabies came back negative.