Saturday, September 24, 2022

Discussion time: The return of wolves?


Wolf (Canis lupus) – captive. Larry Master photo

WOLF DNA: Our reporter Mike Lynch has been tracking the ongoing controversy around a canid that was killed by a Mohawk Valley hunter. While that particular animal was outside the Blue Line, it’s believed to be an indicator that wolves could be returning to northern New York. And now, groups are calling on the state to do more to foster a safe return of wolves/wolf hybrids. Peter Bauer has this commentary in the Almanack.  And this week, a second outside DNA test confirmed the animal was indeed a wolf, and the DEC has agreed with the findings.

My question for you: Should NYS play an active role in facilitating wolves’ population being able to re-establish itself?

Photo: Wolf (Canis lupus) – captive. Larry Master photo

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Melissa is a journalist with experience as a reporter and editor with the Burlington Free Press, Ithaca Journal and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She worked as a communications specialist for the Adirondack North Country Association and is currently digital editor for Adirondack Explorer, overseeing both the Explorer's website and its community forum the Adirondack Almanack. She enjoys hiking, camping and other outdoors activities, and spending time with her husband, their twin daughters, and rescue animals -- two dogs and two cats.

12 Responses

  1. Boreas says:


    I guess one would have to define what “active facilitation” would be. I mean, your description seems to rule-out actual re-introduction programs, which I feel would be a mistake at this time. Just as in the lynx program a generation ago, relocating predators is often associated with high mortality rates because of lack of familiarity of the new habitat (roads, settlements, competitors, food sources, etc.).

    However, I DO feel DEC should be come active in establishing how to facilitate natural migration in and out of the Park for predators. Even if we accept the thought that wolves may never establish a stable breeding population here, does it mean we should treat them the same way as coy-wolves and “harvest” them virtually without abandon? In my opinion, the least we can do for an apex predator we eradicated from the NE is to allow it to come back unimpeded.

    Even if they don’t settle on a specific territory, wolves should be allowed to use the few wildlife corridors we are developing to disperse in natural patterns. Perhaps the only individuals likely to survive here are lone wolves, which means they will likely not keep defined territories. This is still a natural dispersal behavior.

    However, DEC can do NOTHING in a vacuum. Without the support of sportsmen, taxpayers, landowners, farmers, and citizens in general, nothing will work. Education is key to any program or policy. While solid science should guide any programs, citizen attitude and attentiveness to the policies are imperative. There is still plenty of negative opinions and fear of wolves in our state, and this is where the bulk of DEC’s education will need to focus even before formulating policies. It will certainly require a nuanced approach to get people on board with people accepting wolves as brothers again.

  2. Boreas says:

    As a side, can anyone point me toward a good resource for historical (pre- and post-Columbian) wolf population studies in NYS? With old-growth forests being more prevalent, do we know with any certainty where wolf populations (Grey Wolf?) concentrated, or were they always mobile – following prey? Did the ancient populations have similar dynamics to current populations in North America?

  3. Ed Burke says:

    I would say no and suggest concentrating resources on preserving and protecting habitats for known species, especially moose which have reintroduced themselves. Our large eastern coyotes don’t get the respect they deserve despite being almost an identical animal. To many, wolves mean ‘wilderness’ and coyote means ‘varmint’. This latest wolf was a wanderer like the one shot in the town of Day about twenty five years ago. Ditto with the wandering mountain lion seen near Lake George in 2010 which was traced back to South Dakota. We’re lucky to get them on occasion.

  4. JC says:

    It seems to me that somewhere in local NY museums there would be some old wolf pelts from the 1700s, 1800s or early 1900s that could be tested for dna to determine just what kind of wolves the population was then. Maybe even fur trimmed clothing that could be dated could be tested.

  5. JC says:

    While talking about return of wolves, I did have experience with what appeared to be wolf-coyote hybrids when I lived in Northern California in the Sierra foothills, Yuba County, back in the 70s. Across the road from our farm there was big tract of swampland, brush and some thick stands of trees. A pack of about a dozen of those wolf- like animals resided permanently there and dined on newborn calves and vulnerable younger and older disabled cattle. I rode horseback there every week to check on the cattle for the elderly owner. You can see a lot up close from horseback that you can’t see from on the ground or in a pickup. You’re up higher and wild animals are not afraid of you and often come up close in curiosity. Those wolf- like animals were as big as the local coyote wolf crosses here in Essex County. Nothing like the skimpy, slender lone coyotes I saw in Nevada or the Dakotas. But in the flap about a lone male wolf returning to Northern California a few years ago, I read that experts out there proclaimed that there had never been a case of wolf-coyote hybrids in California. They should have asked some ranchers, because I indeed did see them. On one occasional the old rancher gave me a yearling calf weighing in excess of 250 pounds that was freshly torn up on his legs and throat from being trapped in the swamp and being attacked by the pack of wolf-coyotes. No single coyote could do that damage. We also found cows still alive with half eaten calf bodies hanging from them. The wolf-coyotes had learned to hang around cows about to give birth and eat the calves as they were being born. I did have an interesting experience when I came across several pups frolicking in a clearing in the thick woods. They were as cute as could be and just sat up in curiosity as I rode into the clearing. Later one ran right between my horse’s legs when we were on a roundup in thick brush.

  6. JC says:

    Those in northern Calif. did not have dog like qualities. I saw plenty of them up close. They looked just like the coy wolves we see around here now in the Adirondacks. Speaking of coy dogs, we had a farm on the outskirts of Ticonderoga when I was a kid in the 50s and we did hear howling at night in the winter and a couple of times we could see a wolf like animal cross our lawn on the snow on a moonlit night in the bitter cold. Twice I came face to face with what looked like the same in our barnyard early in the morning and it ran. It could have been what was called a coy dog then, as none of our neighbors had german shepherds that were not a common breed then. That was about the time we were hearing howls. I have had years of training and experence as an environmental professional as well as observing wildlife out on the range in the west and then back east as an Adirondack farmer, and so I feel that I can tell the difference between coyotes and dog crosses. Some kind of wolf like animal has been here all along. Locals who were out and about in rural areas at all hours, like farmers and loggers probably have seen the same, but no one ever asks them or believes them, as they don’t have what is considered the appropriate college degrees or expertise.

  7. Nichole webb says:

    What gets me is we tried to kill every last Wolf in this country, now at least in the North East it’s the Coyote under the gun..
    Now the question is Do we want to bring back the Wolf to this region?
    I think we should Stop calling every Predator a nuisance and putting a hunting price on there head..
    Or allowing people to cry because there cow calf domestic dog,cat etc got eaten by a Predator..and Bring the Wolf back witch would Decrease the Coyote population and let nature sort its self out.
    We gave no write to choose or say how many of something deserves to live, or not live..

  8. Nadia Steinzor says:

    Thanks for covering this topic! Yes the DEC should do more — its own evaluation of the species recognizes that recolonization is possible given the proximity of wolves in Canada. Wolves and other canids play critical ecological roles and are native to the Northeast. DEC must address the wolf-coyote hybridization that has long characterized Northeast canid populations. It will be difficult for DEC to uphold its mandate to protect wolves that arrive in NY without doing more to protect coyotes. The December and prior killing of wolves by coyote hunters makes that tragically clear.

  9. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Nichole webb says: “I think we should Stop calling every Predator a nuisance and putting a hunting price on there head..”

    > Except for the human animal predator Nichole! They will always be a nuisance to every other living thing on this planet, until at last….even they will have succumbed to their own ‘Predator’ instinct. You and me, and the rest of us here reading this, will be long gone (?) by then!

  10. I’ve been actively working towards northeast wolf recovery for nearly thirty years. I reported the Day, New York wolf to the USFWS after NYSDEC claimed it was a coyote with 25 pounds of venison in its stomach. NYSDEC has a long and shameful history of denial and it’s long past time that the agency and the Stat of New York acknowledged that wolves are present in the state. The closest known wolf population is just sixty miles away from the New York border in Quebec. A wolf could travel this distance in a day. The St. Lawrence River freezes over completely every winter and serves as a conduit for wolf dispersal. Unfortunately, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec kill most of the young wolves that are attempting to disperse-before many can reach the U.S. We know that some wolves do in fact reach New York from both the Eastern wolf and Great Lakes Gray Wolf populations. New York needs to put in place restrictions on the killing of coyotes, enforce those restrictions to simply allow wolves to live, and monitor the state for the presence of wolves. NYSDEC also should finally admit that wolves are present in the state and should inform hunters and trappers of this fact. As long as the state says “There are no wolves in New York”, hunters and trappers believe they have free rein to kill wolves even though they are protected by state and federal law. Reintroduction is neither biologically necessary nor politically feasible.

  11. JC says:

    For those reasons I am not against letting wolves drift back naturally. As a lifetime owner of livestock of all sizes, in the Adirondacks and in the west, the most predation of my animals has been by neighbors’ dogs or packs of roving dogs. And they will keep coming back time after time until someone shoots them and then you have an angry, vindictive neighbor that blames the livestock owners if his dog disappears. Ag publications of the 1800s blamed dogs for the ruination of the northeastern sheep industtry.
    Wolf-coyote predation on vulnerable larger livestock has been mostly in open range situations with no people around. Here there is not enough open grazing land, so most Adirondack farms are small homestead operations where animals are kept near the home in small pastures and well fenced or in a barn, considering the bad weather much of the year. Because of dog problems we are already set up to deal with larger wild canids such as coyotes, coy-wolves and wolves. I don’t see the difference. One benefit of having a pack of coy-wolves around is there aren’t any more dogs attacking my animals. Either the owners are keeping the dogs in or the coy-wolves are getting the dogs.
    But there should be a way to shoo wild canids away without shooting them. Can’t DEC come up with some suggested methods that will work. I bought a small megaphone with a siren on it to scare away bears and foxes and hunters tresspassers. Haven’t tried it on coyotes yet. I can scream and cuss into it or turn on the siren..
    Another issue is that where ranchers in the west were paid by the government for animals killed by predators it was well known around ranching circles that many claims for predator caused deaths were for animals that actually died from other reasons, such as dying at birth, pneumonia, etc. There is no requirement to prove what the animal died of. For example there are large calf and lamb losses when they are being born out on the range and a late snowstorm comes along. If a predator feeds on the carcass of a dead calf it is not proof that the predator killed it.

    The most frightening predator that I would not want to see, besides a pack of dogs, is a mountain lion. A friend of mine in Colorado has lost 2 Arabian horses to mountain lions. Both full grown horses, one a stallion. The lion jumps on the horse’s back and then attacks the face, tearing it off and blinding them. By the time the owner gets there the animal may still be alive but horribly mutilated. Both were white in a herd of mostly dark horses and the attacks were at night makes me wonder if light colored animals are more easily singled out for attacks at night.

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