Monday, September 26, 2022

NYSDEC Reverses Course, Now Calls The Cooperstown Wolf A Wolf

On September 21, 2022, after a second independent DNA study confirmed that the wolf killed outside of Cooperstown, New York, was really a wolf, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reversed course and announced that the wolf was indeed a wolf. DEC had been calling the Cooperstown wolf a coyote since it examined the dead animal in December 2021 and conducted a DNA study in early 2022. DEC publicly called the wolf a coyote in July in many news reports, after the release of an independent DNA study by Trent University in Canada, organized by the Northeast Ecological Recovery Society (NERS). The Trent University DNA analysis found that the Cooperstown wolf had 98% wolf genes.

In July, the DEC cited its own DNA study as proof that the wolf was a coyote. The DEC used this DNA study in its press comments at the time. Mike Lynch at the Adirondack Explorer reported in July that the DEC had a DNA analysis by the Wildlife Genetics Institute at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania that showed the Cooperstown wolf was “closely identified as an Eastern coyote, with a mix of coyote, wolf, and dog genetics.” WTEN News 10 in Albany reported the story with a quote from Lori Severino, a DEC spokesperson, saying “Initial DNA analysis conducted determined the wild canid to be most closely identified as an eastern coyote.” 

In July, the DEC refused to release its DNA study to the public. Protect the Adirondacks, and other groups and media outlets, submitted Freedom of Information requests for the study. DEC sent out letters in September, saying that this study would not be available until October at the earliest.

The second DNA study, again organized by NERS, and this time performed by Princeton University, found that the Cooperstown wolf had 96.2% wolf DNA. Once that report was out, the DEC decided to release its DNA study from East Stroudsburg University to Mike Lynch who was reporting on the second independent DNA study. It turns out that the DEC’s DNA study stated the Cooperstown wolf was 65.2% wolf and 34.8% eastern coyote.

The East Stroudsburg University DNA study, based on samples from the dead Cooperstown wolf, was submitted to the DEC on April 13, 2022. Why did the DEC sit on this report for five full months before making it public? A bigger mystery is why did the DEC say publicly that the Cooperstown wolf was a coyote when it had DNA analysis that said it was 65.2% wolf?

After the Princeton DNA study, the DEC released the following statement on September 23rd:

 

 

Wolves have been documented coming into NYS in the past two decades. The coyotes that dominate New York State are a hybrid of wolves and coyotes, with many animals having a majority of wolf genes. Over the last 30 years, coyotes in the Adirondack Park have exhibited a number of wolf-like behaviors, such as forming packs, at least on a temporary basis. Deer kills, especially on frozen lakes in the winter by coyote packs, are a regular occurrence. Signs of deer kills are frequent on frozen lakes in the Adirondacks.

In addition to acknowledging officially that the Cooperstown wolf was a wolf, the DEC needs to retain gray wolves on the NYS Endangered Species  Act list. DEC states that wolves are “extirpated” species in the state.

DEC says it will start to provide information to hunters. DEC has updated its website with information about the differences between a wolf and coyote, using language similar to the Maine Fish and Game website, but much more needs to be done. The DEC website reads:

Wolf vs Coyote: Large coyotes (50+ pounds) have been reported in New York, but they are uncommon. Any canid 50 pounds or greater may be a wolf, wolf-hybrid, or domestic dog. New York law protects wolves from hunting or trapping. It is also illegal to indiscriminately shoot domestic dogs or wolf-hybrids. We have documented a few wolves and wolf hybrids over the last 20 years in New York. In most cases, we believe these animals were released from captivity. However, wild wolves are present in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario and it is possible for these animals to travel into New York. Please use care in identifying any large canids you encounter. If you suspect you have a canine in a trap that is over 4.5 ft. in length (tip of nose to tip of tail) and is over 50 pounds, contact NYSDEC law enforcement (1-844-332-3267) before dispatching the animal.

Size comparison of a coyote vs. a wolf track.

 

 

The social media pictures of the dead Cooperstown wolf and the hunter show that the wolf was shot with a muzzleloader rifle with a scope. The wolf was shot by the hunter who was probably out deer hunting during the late muzzleloading season that follows the regular deer season in many parts of New York. In the Adirondacks, muzzleloading, or black powder hunting, precedes the regular deer season. Deer hunters are trained to look for antlers and even estimate the points and size of the antlers. The hunter must have looked at the Cooperstown wolf close up through his scope for at least a couple of seconds before he shot it. Had the DEC provided hunters in NYS with information on wolves, wolf-coyote identification, or the Endangered Species Act protections, that may have caused this hunter to see that he had a protected wolf in his scope, not simply a really big coyote, and not to shoot it, to let the wolf go by, and to contact the DEC about its location. All hunters in NYS should be given information about the possible presence of wolves in the state as part of the materials they receive with their hunting licenses.

The issue of wolves recolonizing historic habitat in the Adirondack Park, with its vast forested landscape, or other parts of New York State with large agricultural and forested areas, will not go away. Longstanding research has shown that many coyotes in New York carry wolf genes. This research has shown the amounts of wolf genes in these animals is rising. At what point, and what percentage of DNA, or with what types of DNA, is a coyote legally a wolf? These are important, and complicated, questions for the DEC to reckon with.

Unfortunately, these questions seem ill-suited for the current DEC leadership. DEC’s actions around the Cooperstown wolf raise many questions about how the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is dealing with this issue. This episode shows an agency that came up short in disclosing information to the public. This episode shows a DEC that needs to improve its game when it comes to openness and transparency. This episode shows an agency willfully misleading the public and stonewalling public requests for information. This episode shows an agency where political concerns trumped science.

Most of all, this episode shows an agency that did not do its job to protect a wild animal in New York State under the Endangered Species Act. The Cooperstown wolf never enjoyed its rightful protections accorded to it under New York State law.

(Picture in this story courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.)

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children, enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Twitter.


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81 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    I don’t know this seems a bit harsh. You say in one line that a coyote can be majority wolf. Then you criticize them for basically saying that after the first study?

    Then you have a study that has a totally different result. So at that point as a scientist you clearly want to be very careful since now you don’t know what’s going on. The third study confirms that the second study is probably the right result. Then they have a release. Nothing wrong with being careful and making sure you get it right.

    We know that wolves are sometimes found in NYS. It is a short swim for an animal from a place like Canada where there are established populations. Two buck deer were spotted last week swimming a mile off the coast of nantucket!

    • Steve B. says:

      There are known breeding pairs of coyotes on Long Island for the first time. One of the pair is on the east end. Speculation is they swam from Fishers Island to the north fork. Apparently coyotes have been known to swim up to 2 miles. Theres another breeding pair being monitored in Port Washington, L.I., which is pretty much solid suburbia. They think in this case, coyotes have either swam across from the Bronx, or used the maintenance path on the AMTRAK bridge that spans from Queens to the Bronx. Pretty wily these critters.

      As well, I recall the howling in Mt. Carelton Prov. Park in New Brunswick while camping there many years ago. The park caretaker informed us that the park system ecologists had been tracking wolves in the region, those having crossed from Quebec.

  2. Linda M. Wheeler says:

    Wow. Great article.
    While i sure dont want to encounter a wolf, or half wolf/coyote, or a bear, any kind if bear!!!, i do not want to see or hear about protected animals being killed. Very sad !!!
    And what kind of deer hunter would shoot an animal that was CLEARLY not a deer anyway!!! Hope that hunter was fined and maybe no hunting license this year for any kind of wild game.

    • Bill Keller says:

      The deer hunter thought it was a coyote, which is legal to hunt in NY state. The animal was shot during legal coyote hunting season. Three confirmed wolves in New York in 25 years, I believe it was an honest mistake. And so did the DEC. And you would want this hunter fined and his hunting privilege’s taken away, a sad commentary on society in general.

      • AG says:

        The fact that wolf DNA is increasing in the “eastern coyote” population means other wolves have been moving in and continuing to breed into the population.

        • Not necessarily. Natural selection will increase the percentage of genes derived from wolves without needing any supplement from outside. In this context it is more accurate to speak of genes rather than DNA.

    • Boreas says:

      Linda,

      Deer season and coyote season overlap in NYS. The issue is how do hunters/trappers distinguish between coy-wolf and full wolf reliably in the field? How does DEC enforce strict protection of one when it is so similar to the other that has a 6 month open season?

      • Bill Ott says:

        Maybe they should have to trap the animals, take them to get the dna checked , and then if OK, shoot them. That would be the real call of the wild, HUH?

        • Onno Oerlemans says:

          Much easier not to hunt coyotes or wolves at all. You can’t eat them, their fur isn’t worth anything, so why kill them? For the thrill? I think my thrill at seeing and hearing them ought to be protected from the questionable thrill of killing them.

          • Paul says:

            According to the article, and backed up by some of the comments and links.. The more you kill the coyotes the better chance that you will get to see and hear them. So I guess you and the hunters can both get the “thrill”. So few opportunities for everyone to get what they want these days, I guess we have one here.

  3. Fisherking says:

    Is this article about wolves or a longstanding resentment of NYSDEC? I sense that regardless of the topic we always end up at the same place.

  4. denis arvay says:

    Sadly, this has the prospect of causing panic over the presence of wolves in our area. There are already black bears our area and they are not dangerous: it’s actually a happy experience to spot one every so often. Wolves would be much less likely to be seen, although we’d hear them , and maybe some of those howls we hear are actually wolves. There are places in the country where dangerous species of bears and cougars live, but wolves are not among the dangerous species. Seems to me too many people spend to much time finding things to fear.

  5. LeRoy Hogan says:

    To be or not to be

  6. Onno Oerlemans says:

    To me, whether the animal was a wolf or not is a bit of a red herring. Wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs aren’t really distinct species, since they can all interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Saying a wild animal is x% wolf and x% coyote is less meaningful than it seems when they share about 99% of DNA to begin with. It’s a bit like using DNA to distinguish a Labrador from a Retriever. Since we need more apex predators in wilderness anyway, the obvious solution is to stop the hunting of coyotes, and let wild canines be wild canines.

    • Boreas says:

      Onno,

      I agree about the need for strong apex predators with the ability to take down large moose if we are going to shoot (pardon the pun) for a naturally sustainable environment which indeed now contains large numbers of deer and a much smaller population of moose. The coy-wolf is not an apex predator, but rather a generalist that is very adaptable to many environments. It cannot perform the same functions as a true wolf or cougar.

      Unfortunately, for many upstaters, the coy-wolf is even now considered detrimental (if not reviled) for one reason or another and hunted/trapped legally without limits – albeit not year round. Whether we are talking wolf or cougar, is it possible for our current human population to allow them to return and perhaps even thrive with significant opposition? This is going to be an uphill battle with DEC not wanting to step on these toes in particular. It will be an interesting and likely noisy return – assuming these apex predators keep trying!

      • Onno Oerlemans says:

        Do we know that the large coyote-wolves (or whatever they are) in the ADKS are not taking predating on deer and/or moose? I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that their behavior here is very different from that of coyotes in other ecosystems–that here they tend to hunt in packs, prey on larger animals, etc.

        I know it will be an uphill battle to protect these animals no matter what we call them, or what they are, and that hunters will keep fighting for the right to kill them, for whatever reason, but I think (hope) that more precise science about canine variability can help.

        • Pamela Karaz says:

          The northeastern coyote absolutely predates on deer… have witnessed it many times in Barneveld NY where we had 40 acres in a heavily deer populated area, in the winter with herded up deer they would get an occasional adult and more so yearlings, especially fawns in the spring… Our handsome coyotes there were large, so perhaps higher percentage of wolf.

        • Boreas says:

          Yes – coy-wolves DO take deer and perhaps even small moose, but usually not year-round. Coy-wolves are much more likely to take smaller prey when available. True wolves tend to predate on ungulates year-round, and are more efficient at it, so they are considered more of an apex predator than smaller coy-wolf hybrids.

          But much of the behavior is habitat and pack-specific. Some wolf packs in Yellowstone are now specializing in bison over elk. I believe much depends on terrain and snow pack in winter.

      • You are confused as to what a species is. Many species can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Eg. -Mallard and Black Duck.

        • Onno Oerlemans says:

          My point is that “species” is to some degree a human construct, a category we create to make sense of the biological world around us. And this world is not fixed and static (as an essentialized notion of species implies), but constantly evolving. As several people have noted, there are a number of different overlapping concepts of species. Canine species and sub-species are interesting because there is so much variability within species, and so much continuity between them. It’s better to think of them as on a continuum rather than as distinct and isolated. My ultimate point is that there’s no point fetishizing one species over another, and just allow wild canines to be wild canines, and yes, to stop hunting all of them.

          • Pamela Karaz says:

            Well stated Onno, my sentiments exactly, especially your last sentence. Thank you…

          • Onno- I think you are taking the Biological Species Concept a bit too far. Your initial statement (Sept 27)- ” Wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs aren’t really distinct species”- this is a statement few mammologists would agree with. If you disagree with the hunting of an animal for sentimental or moral reasons that is something I can respect, if not agree with. No need to gussie it up with Biology.

    • Sarah says:

      Agreed. Halting coyote hunting season for a few years in order to get a better understanding on what it going on with coyote, wolf, hybrid etc . I’m sure that would not go over well with hunters. Most hunters already view coyote as a nuisance species and it is primarily hunting for sport. I believe it is our duty to protect this emerging population and to do whatever it takes. The conflicting dna tests…hmmm. 2 out of 3 showed DNA over 95% Wolf. Could be human error in testing . It was a Wolf in my opinion.

    • AG says:

      I think you make the best point… As noted – coyotes in NY (and probably New England) are increasing in their wolf genes… That means other wolves not noticed are breeding with them… You are correct – not much separates genetically between wild canids and domestic dogs

  7. Hopefully this will have an impact on making predator killing contests illegal in NYS. If they are still allowed after this, then each large “coyote” should be DNA tested and if shown to be part wolf (as most all NE coyotes are) the hunter should be fined/prosecuted whatever the fine is for killing a wolf. Maybe this is what DEC is afraid of… they need to step up and stop the barbaric onslaught on coyotes and hunters need to beware that they will be fined.

    • Boreas says:

      Pamela,

      I have been ponderin’ long and hard about the situation of true wolves wandering into the area and how to protect them. I am starting to see the logic of your approach being the best way to proceed. While DNA testing on every large canid would be expensive and onerous, I mostly believe it to be largely impractical. HOWEVER, shooting/trapping a larger canid over 50 or 60 pounds could be made illegal and the hides of which would be confiscated and tested accordingly. Originally I placed my sympathy with hunters/trappers being able to differentiate between wolves and coy-wolves in the field, but if DEC does NOT make it illegal with significant consequence, allowing continued harvesting of wolves will be going against federal policy on wolf protection.

      So what is the actual DOWN side to making the shooting/trapping of a TRUE wolf illegal? People who harass or kill them intentionally would be prosecuted. People who harass or kill them mistakenly DO have a choice not to pull the trigger on a large canid in their sights or set traps in areas that are likely to contain larger canids. While there may be a certain amount of doubt, there is nothing to force any sportsman to pull the trigger on any target. Deer hunters are pretty good at distinguishing a spike on a buck during deer season and telling game from non-game bird species, and I believe we could be taught the difference between a 40 pound and an 80 pound canid – especially since, at this point anyway, wolves would never be in a pack, but rather lone individuals at first. After all, we can currently tell the difference between foxes and coy-wolves. It isn’t impossible, but more education is necessary. And just because it would be illegal, it doesn’t make reasonable adjudication for exceptions impossible – at least in the early stages of implementation – assuming the infraction ever came to light.

      As another benefit to protecting wolves by NYS law is to perhaps reduce the harvest of larger coy-wolves where a sportsman may have doubt. Is this a bad thing – alloying larger canids to thrive because we are not certain of their identity? Coy-wolves are currently the closest think we have to an apex predator population. If threat of mis-identification results in a net decrease in larger coy-dog harvests, will we be any worse off? I suspect not. Understanding true coy-wolf population and reproduction dynamics, behavior, and predator/prey balances are going to be paramount – especially if wolves DO re-establish themselves.

      • Boreas says:

        EDIT – in the last paragraph, change coy-dog to coy-wolf.

        • AdkDoug says:

          Just call them by the correct name “eastern coyote.” Coy-wolf and coy-dog are just slang terms for these animals.

          • Boreas says:

            AdkDoug,

            Good point. Bad habit to break.

            I settled on using coy-wolf (hybrid) because to me, it seemed more descriptive of the specific hybrid type I am talking about. “Eastern coyote” encompasses all of the known hybrids I believe, with a wider range of DNA mixes, phenotypes, and behaviors. When I use the term “coy-wolf”, I am describing a coyote with a large amount of wolf DNA and minimal domestic dog. At what point it becomes a wolf-ote, I cannot say!

            • Steve B. says:

              They’ve mostly been successful re-introducing Mexican wolves into the SW New Mexico/eastern Arizona wildernesses, excepting the frequent shooting and killing, likely by local ranchers who don’t give a hoot that killing a wolf is illegal. This with decent funding for cattle known to be killed by a wolf. The Fed’s have mostly been unable to ever catch and prosecute those doing the shooting and I suspect the DEC would be similarly unable to enforce laws against shooting a wolf here in NY. Really hard to get the idea across to a cattle or sheep rancher that the presence of wolves is a good idea long term, fewer deer eating the crap out of the crop, etc….

      • Andy Seymour says:

        Ask the folks out in Montana what reintroducing wolves did for them.It decimated the Elk and deer population is what it did.I have friends there who say don’t bother coming here too hunt..I for one shoot deer for the meat,The adirondack winters are tough on the deer anyway…
        For you people who are quick too want too crucify the hunters for shooting coyotes….guess what?I buy a hunting liscence that gives me that right,your happy to accept my liscence dollars for maintaining the hiking trails etc..but are quick to want too tell us what we can do?
        I’d like to know your credentials,what studies have you have researched that make you think having wolf packs in the adirondacks would be beneficial too the existing wildlife populations?Or do those populations not matter?Because you want to sit around at night and talk about how beautiful the howls are?Get a grip and think about it please.
        I truly believe wolves have been secretly and illegally been turned loose in the adirondacks by the same people trying to make the case that they are here.Thats my opinion, not a fact but I do believe some of these groups will stop at nothing too get their way.
        I hunt coyotes over bait,at night with the use of night vision and thermal image scope…legally.So sorry about your feelings but I choose deer over coyotes…or wolves.

        • Boreas says:

          Andy,

          The “decimation” of the elk herd in YNP was considered environmentally a success, as they had no real predators for a hundred years! Elk over-browsed many of the river valleys which created stream erosion and overheating of waters. Wolves pushed the elk out of the valleys into the higher, more wooded areas. Indeed, it did decimate the numbers, but that was what the wolves were intended to do. And some packs are starting to work on bison.

          One must consider that the wolf, as a keystone species and apex predator in YNP, was actively extirpated by man, creating considerable environmental damage of its own. Indeed, prey species (ungulates) will obviously increase in number if their main predator is suddenly removed from the ecosystem. Returning the balance obviously will result in a dramatic decrease in ungulate species – but it won’t eliminate them. That isn’t how nature works.

          Even griz are preying on newborn elk now because of scarcity of many of their Spring grubs and insects, as well as cutthroat trout in the streams decimated by stupid, illegal introductions of lake trout in Yellowstone Lake and brook trout into the streams. But the last I knew, we continue to support federal feeding of elk outside of the Park in Jackson Hole, where many elk overwinter in protected areas. I dunno – Is that robbing Peter to pay Paul?

          • Andy says:

            Boreal,
            Who considered it a success?I personally know a family out there who owned and operated an outfitter business with a big lodge, restaurant and cabins.It was full of clients for years.The wolves wiped out the Elk and deer populations so bad that he ended up going under.I know they didn’t consider it a success.Instead of playing God why couldn’t we have let more Elk and deer tags become available for hunters?That is something that can be controlled year by year,as needed for population control.If the population was so out of control why was it Still a lottery for tags?So you say that the wolves pushed the Elk into higher elevations?That may be true,I don’t know but the wolves sure didn’t leave the lower elevations,they started feeding on people’s cattle and livestock.Now the ranchers are losing their livelihood..Seems to me that more hunting would have been a better control method.
            I by no means am a wolf expert,don’t know much about them.My question for someone who is is why did we try too wipe coyotes out,we had bounties on them even,back when alot of people trapped and the population increased?I understand that when an alpha male was taken out of the pack it allowed the juvenile weaker males to breed.That makes sense to me.I get it.What makes us think we can control the wolves population. Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to play god.Ive been hunting for almost 40 years,so yes I do understand how nature works..thanks.
            You seem to have strong opinions on introducing brook and lake trout into the streams,I can’t say I completely disagree.But from what you’ve said,and correct me if I’m wrong but I’m gonna guess that you are a fisherman and don’t hunt?Am I right?
            So I understand wolves in the adirondacks wouldn’t personally negatively affect your way of life but it will affect alot of people negatively.My family typically eat 3 deer a year,we work hard for it and love it,we don’t want the processed junk that is sold in supermarkets.If you do then more power too ya,that’s your right.No different than my right to feed my family what mother nature has provided.
            Often times the wolf packs don’t eat most if the Elk,they eat the fetus out of the cows while they are still alive..I get it,that’s nature,I don’t like it but I don’t necessarily fault the wolf,they know where the highest nutrients are so they eat the fetus and go get another one.
            In my opinion,hunters could control the population by permit allotment year by year.Keep in mind alot of people feel the same about the wolves as you feel about the “stupid” Lakers and brookies in your fishing hole.

            • Boreas says:

              Andy,

              The “success” is in returning the greater YNP into a more natural ecosystem. Indeed, this may negatively effect humans who moved to the vicinity to take advantage of overly-abundant elk. Just as animals do, they will need to adapt. Humans are very good at adapting to change.

              Indeed – should we be playing God? I don’t believe so. Neither should we place ourselves in dominion over Nature. Eradicating apex predators around the lower 48 was an extreme example of playing God. Is it playing God to reverse our short-sightedness? Or is it helping to restore what we destroyed?

              Reasonable people should be coming to the conclusion that we are totally inadequate in controlling nature in the long term. We have set up huge agriculture and immense human developments in the DESERT! Guess what – not enough water! We built many of our cities at water level. Guess what – the water is rising! Let’s cut down all the trees. Uh-oh, now we have no old growth forests! We tried to turn our wild areas into zoos and game preserves a century ago. Didn’t work out so well for wildlife – just sportsmen. Now, as a sportsman myself, I can’t begrudge sportsmen from taking advantage of the situation where possible. But reasonable people need to see the difference between management of game and management of an ecosystem. And I think we are now seeing playing God and management are very similar. Perhaps we need to learn to manage our own species before we play God with all others. It will be painful.

            • AG says:

              Using your weapons and trying to control nature is exactly you “playing God”…. the sad part is you don’t see it. Except you don’t have the God given senses that natural predators do – which helps maintain strong prey species and habitats.

      • Paul says:

        Boreas, how would you be able to limit the trapping of a particular weight of an animal? You would have to stop all coyote trapping if you want to stop the trapping of an occasional wolf that wanders into the area. You can’t expect trappers to let larger animals go, they would be getting maimed or killed while they try to free the animal from a trap?

        • Boreas says:

          That is true!! So the burden of the decision lies with the trapper on whether or not to set traps for the largest large canids at all. Is trapping large canids worth the risk of a fine and/or loss of license?

          But if one MUST trap, why not simply consider changes on how to do so more discriminately. The foot of a wolf is much larger than an eastern coyote, and they are much stronger – being nearly twice the size. I am not a trapper, but perhaps use a smaller trap or a lighter spring that a larger animal can pull out of?? Use different bait? It could also result in reducing the number of larger domestic dogs/hounds getting caught by mistake.

          • Paul says:

            Boreas, some wolves can be smaller too. They don’t start out as large canids, they are probably pretty small when you are teaching them how to look for food. If you don’t want any trapping just say you don’t want any trapping. Don’t make a rule that is one nobody could figure out how to make work, that is just a way to avoid saying you want to ban something.

            • Agree Seems like otherwise sensible people turning themselves inside out trying to use Biology to justify what is essentially a moral or sentimental stance.

              • Dana says:

                JVG,

                You lost me. So DEC should write the game laws and base endangered wildlife protection on morals and sentiment and NOT science?? That would cause quite the kerfuffle!

                • Dana-I was agreeing with Paul’s statement- if you don’t like trapping just say so. Of course game and other laws should be based on science. What I object to are the many posts on this topic that throw out a bunch of half baked or outright erroneous ideas on genetics or population dynamics- and then end with “besides no one should hunt coyotes because they’re mystical spirit animals and hunters are mean troglodytes” Go back and read through and see if you agree.

                  • Onno Oerlemans says:

                    I’ve gone back through all the comments, and I don’t see anyone saying coyotes are mystical spirit animals and hunters are mean troglodytes. I don’t think people should hunt coyotes for both biological and moral reasons–biological because they are playing an ecological role in the Park, and because the distinction between them and wolves is blurry at best, and moral because I don’t see any legitimate reason for hunting them–they can’t be eaten, their fur isn’t worth much, and there are plenty of deer for hunters and coyotes.

            • Boreas says:

              Paul,

              Who is talking about banning anything? What is so difficult about a smaller trap for trapping coyotes that lets bigger canids go? You seem to be reading a lot into my suggestion. The moral decision lies with the hunters & trappers, not with me.

              Are you suggesting we don’t protect wolves at all, yet consider them endangered? What is the logic in that? At least I am trying to come up with solutions.

  8. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “The maternal lineage of evidence item 1 was identified as 99.9 percent coyote, Canis latrans. The final species determination of evidence item 1 is coyote (Canis latrans).”

    > Why would the DEC lie?

    “The hunter must have looked at the Cooperstown wolf close up through his scope for at least a couple of seconds before he shot it. Had the DEC provided hunters in NYS with information on wolves, wolf-coyote identification, or the Endangered Species Act protections, that may have caused this hunter to see that he had a protected wolf in his scope, not simply a really big coyote, and not to shoot it, to let the wolf go by…..”

    > Sad! The coyote is a beautiful animal. The wolf beautiful! All animals….beautiful! I never was made to be a hunter though I do see a value in the sport so long as I am not a participant. The problem, oftentimes, which comes from the hunting mentality, is not as much the gun as it is the hunter, the psychiatry which comes with the thrill of killing; the extension of which leads to a surge of excitement and pleasure during the act.

    I know people who have shot every ‘thing’ that moved on their acreage. I know one person who finally moved after decades of living on the same rural spread. He killed every ‘chuck’ he saw for no other reason than “I don’t like woodchucks, they dig holes on my property….” Yep, woodchucks dig holes so let us kill them for making use of their nature. My guess is that the woodchucks are just now again beginning to repopulate that acreage a few years after the slayer was removed. I know people who blocked the woodchuck holes in their yards with boulders so that the woodchucks had no way out of their holes, so that they would die slow deaths in them. Green, un-holy lawns, or the cosmetic look, are more important than woodchucks. I have seen others commit similar acts, some of which I undid since I had the means to do.

    We sometimes kill wolves and coyotes for this reason above…..thrills. I haven’t put much thought into this re-introduction matter but in thinking about it these moments I feel as if it wont work. There’s just too many people, too much has been urbanized, and there most certainly is less environment for them to roam like back in the early1800’s. We’ve destroyed their habitat! The Adirondacks is big sure, but is it big enough for them to survive the roamer’s that they are. And then there’s chickens, and domesticated pets in the burbs which surely will be a draw and fair game, etc. and all around I just don’t think this material empire is ready for the wolf due to society’s worldly nature’s. It’s a nice thought this introduction theme, but no matter how one may look at it, the wolf is threatened as soon as it comes in contact with human society. This is never going to change and is why the wolf has been on the ‘hit’ list since the 1600’s in this country.

    • Boreas says:

      I agree Charlie. If many landowners still inhabit the land of their not-so-long departed ancestors who literally could collect bounties for killing as many wolves or cougars they could and essentially eradicating them from the NE US. It is imperative these landowners adopt a dramatically different attitude if cougars or wolves have any chance of kick-starting populations here. These apex predators do not recognize our artificial political boundaries between public and private lands, and will always wander/disperse. But how likely is this?? Only time will tell. Certainly not likely in MY lifetime!

  9. Charlie Stehlin says:

    I’ve been visiting the Cooperstown, and Otsego County, area the past three years, oftentimes twice a month, and have gotten to know it very well, the back-roads especially. I gotta say….there is some beautiful rural, wooded, hilly country in that region….a step back in time. Just amazing how much beautiful country New York State has! I can see where a wolf would find a haven in those parts Otsego County.

    • Boreas says:

      Charlie,

      I assume you have read Leatherstocking Tales. Gives us an idea what the area was like before roads! I think my favorite is The Deerslayer.

  10. Joseph J Arcuri says:

    What a shame…. Beautiful majestic wolves belong in NY. Natural predators of deer whose numbers are off the charts. I don’t believe a hunter especially as am I didn’t know the diffrence between a Wolf and a Coyote or Coydog.

  11. JB says:

    This incident adds to the long list of bad choices from DEC (though, to be fair, they have made a few good ones in the past couple of decades, too). But I think that there is a risk that the wolf debate becomes a distraction from the ultimate problems, as it has elsewhere. If nothing else, we should see the silver lining in all of this: nature is, and always will be, full of surprises.

    There is little doubt in my mind that the presence of this wolf is at least partially owed to the actions taken to keep the Forest Preserve intact and “forever wild” — even though wolves have not been top of mind for a couple of centuries. It’s alright to celebrate wolves, but they are a small part in all of the other aspects of existence that benefit from large, intact ecosystems. Every subdivision, every road, every trail (and yes, every hunter) has its effect. Let’s not forget to think about that too.

  12. william c hill says:

    This article was informative and interesting until the author started swinging his gavel and both judge and jury. But, that comes as no surprise as that’s how Bauer injects his slant to the topic.

  13. rlp says:

    Thank you for the informative article, highlighting proven failures of the organization tasked with helping to protect our natural environment, ecosystems, and members thereof. The DEC’s response to this issue has not explained their alleged mistakes, nor answered reasonable questions one might have regarding the matter. Allowing unmitigated slaughter of particular canids, and furthering the scope of that permission by issuing general excusal for unintended canid kills outside the target range of species, is proving already to be greatly problematic. If those who stalk, trap, and kill cannot be relied upon to differentiate between Protected and non-Protected individuals, then such permissions should be revoked. Discerning species of individual by size seems a foolhardy provision — what about youths, or exceptional outliers of uncommon size (whether larger or smaller)? At heart is another issue, and that is if the allowance and enabling of murder for ‘fun’. Outside of self-defense, where another animal proves to be a direct and immediate threat to a human, there is no reasonable reason for intentionally killing another living being. Conflict (and perceived conflict) between animals and human interests can be resolved by any number of non-lethal, non-harmful methods — have humans not evolved past the point of immediate violence as the chosen and preferential reaction to every perceived (or actual) problem? Issuing lies instead of statements of fact certainly does not help, but only obfuscates, conflates, and confuddles the matter — there should be an independent investigation into the parts of the DEC that had to do with this entire incident, with accountability and remediation where needed. Great article, informative, factual, citing sources as well. Peace

  14. KC says:

    DEC refuses to reign in hunters. They refuse to protect even declining, but still hunted, populations such as woodcock, rail, snipe and black bear. They refuse to discuss prohibiting trapping, a cruel and completely unnecessary activity (California has done this). They refuse to end the patently inhumane activity of “tracking” bears with packs of dogs – which not only terrorizes bears and pushes them into populated areas, but can overheat them and cause them to be separated from their cubs. (Not to mention the collateral damage caused by this pointless activity to severely imperiled populations of ground-nesting, migratory songbirds). They refuse to accept any responsibility for the huge number of birds and other critters who are entangled in fishing line and lures, or lead-poisoned by fishing tackle of careless fishermen.

    DEC needs to clean itself out of the “good ole boys,” who are no longer current with the needs or desires of the outdoor-using public or our dwindling wildlife. And most importantly, it’s time for new ways to finance management of our public lands, to better reflect what the majority of the public are looking to do outdoors.

  15. Wow. You people are delusional. Get a grip

  16. Rob F says:

    I’ve been told by several people that Mountain Lions are present in the Adirondacks, but DEC denies this also. Why?

    • Boreas says:

      Rob F,

      Because they exist, then they don’t.

      Usually what we see are solitary individuals moving around and through the state. Sometimes escapees from refuges or illegal domestication. DEC essentially denies only the presence of breeding populations.

  17. Jd says:

    I’ve been told by several people that Mountain Lions are present in the Adirondacks, but DEC denies this also. Why?

  18. John Adams says:

    I have seen Wolves, Mt. Lion, and Moose throughout the Adirondacks over the years. The NYS State DEC has been lying to the public for years. Why would they stop now? They had to admit this because they were caught, and it would get out anyway. Estimating the size of an animal from a distance is very difficult to do unless you have something to compare it with, say, another animal of the same. If one saw a Coyote and a Wolf standing side by side, one could tell that one of those animals was significantly larger than the other. However, looking through a scope makes it even more challenging to estimate the size or weight of an animal.

    • Boreas says:

      John,

      This is indeed true – there is no surefire method of identification in the field.

      This is why I am slowly developing the attitude that perhaps fines/loss of license may be the only way to appropriately address the problem. Indeed, a LARGE canid could be a wolf or eastern coyote. Then the onus falls to the hunter – to pull the trigger or not – knowing there could theoretically be a fine or loss of license if they choose incorrectly. I am not saying it is fair, but the hunter ALWAYS has the option of what game to pursue, and whether or not to harvest the animal in his/her sights. It isn’t life or death to the hunter, just the hunted. Would this result in fewer hunters/trappers pursuing large canids? Most likely. Will it result in fewer large canids harvested? Of course. But the people who DO continue to hunt/trap them will certainly avail themselves of identification tips and perhaps a more discriminate trigger finger.

  19. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Boreas says: “Charlie, I assume you have read Leatherstocking Tales. Gives us an idea what the area was like before roads! I think my favorite is The Deerslayer.

    > I haven’t read ‘Leatherstocking Tales’ Boreas (as yet) but I am familiar with some of Cooper’s other writings. What a writer he was! What a mind! I have read other books from authors who lived, frequented and roamed the Cooperstown/Otsego County area in the late 1700s to early 1800s; two of them being Levi Beardsley who wrote “Reminiscences…. 1852”, and Henry Clarke Wright who wrote, “Human Life: My Individual Experience as a Child, a Youth, and a Man 1849.” Both of these authors were well-known in their day, and to this day are still well-known, though only to those who are interested in the history. Wright met Thoreau once. Both of these authors narrate descriptive scenes and incidents relative to the Otsego country back in the late 1700s to early 1800s. Walking in the woods to get from A-Z was a very common mode of traveling back then. Women walked miles through the woods back then to go to church, or to visit friends, then walked back home at night. The children would walk miles through the woods to go to school. Henry used to walk tens of miles through the Otsego woods.

    Henry Clarke Wright’s dad built the barn to their house in Hartwick, NY (south of Cooperstown) in the late 1700s. That barn and house still stand to this day. I found, and visited, the barn a few years ago, and though it has been modernized some, and not preserved as it should have been, the wood on the inside is original and it still has the old axe-hewn beams, and what a joy it was being in that same barn that Wright used to play in as a boy, and which he talks about in ‘Human Life.’

    Our early New York history is very interesting Boreas, and if one has a desire to know what the area was like before roads, there are chockful’s of books on the matter. Another one would be, “History of The Pioneer Settlement Of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase, and Morris Reserve…. by Orasmus Turner 1851” This history embraces some of the western counties of New York State. There’s talk of building log cabins on large tracts of land, hundreds of acres…….

    Another excellent book would be “Pioneer History of Orleans County, New York…. by Arad Thomas 1871” This book is replete with ‘first-hand’ accounts from the old-timers before they died on what the country was like in the western part of New York State in the 1700’s. There’s talk of wolves and bears and huge stacks of cords of wood on every property, chestnut trees, etc…..

    Excuse me for plugging literature here but I cannot help myself. I cannot get enough of the old stories, the history, the first-hand accounts of the way things used to be; and O’, ‘the wilderness’ which was very much the common thread throughout all of our early New York history! I suppose it keeps the romance in me alive, the child spirit, this delving into our past!

    • Boreas says:

      Charlie,

      Time’s a wastin’! Get the entire series and read them in order of time setting, not the order in which they were written. The sequence would start with “The Deerslayer”.

      Another popular older book I read recently was “Drums Along The Mohawk”. Not great literature, but I feel it gives a good, if politically incorrect, taste of pioneering life.

      Yet another good one is “Bloody Mohawk” by Berleth about the history of early warfare in the region. Much drier, but nonetheless informative.

  20. Jesse Quonce says:

    The article states “The Cooperstown wolf never enjoyed its rightful protections accorded to it under New York State law” but the article also states that Eastern Coyotes carry predominant Wolf genes. How is a hunter afield supposed to determine from sight if a Coyote appears wolf-ish? I realize that the genesis of this article are the failures in disclosure by NYS DEC, but this article also seems to discredit the hunter for knowingly (or unknowingly) taking a wolf. If this is the court of “shoot first, DNA test later” then there might be a fair number of NYS predator hunters who are deemed “guilty” of taking an animal that’s deemed to be wolf through after-the-fact DNA testing

    • AG says:

      Isn’t it “interesting the DEC claims natural re-colonization is not likely – yet that is exactly what happened in Northern California. Females and males naturally moved in from Oregon and now there are at least 3 known packs in California… Happened all in the 2000’s.

      • Boreas says:

        AG,

        I choose to read between the lines of that quote. They don’t say anything about protection status. I think DEC is being realistic about road-kill and persecution (and their inability to control it) of any wolves wandering into NYS. It says nothing of their natural ABILITY to do so if prey is abundant. But as you and others have mentioned, we don’t have much control over the increasing wolf mix in the established E. coyote population.

        If there is a re-introduction, it will likely be a re-introduction via hybridization. This could possibly be the best scenario because the habitat and ecosystems have changed since large predators were exterminated. The changed habitat will require changed behavior and savvier predators able to avoid humans while following the prey. Even with virtually full wolf genotypes, coyote genes will likely still be numerous as the population(s) adapt.

  21. Alexander Lowe says:

    Watch the entire DEC interview posted on their website. They delve into the differences between mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, as well as how difference in reference set can impact species determination. Their initial position and new position both make sense, and certainly does not seem willfully deceptive, if one understands the genetics and science.

  22. Rebecca Young says:

    Hello Peter,
    I really appreciate this well written article about Canids in upstate New York. I own
    Property in Herkimer county 16 miles north of Cooperstown and we have hunters on our land.
    I do not know the rules about shooting Coyotes.
    I do know they hunt them on snow mobiles and with dogs.
    My sister and brother in law are responsible for our agreements letters and education to hunters on our land.
    If you could provide me with good links I would appreciate it.
    We have lots of deer as our land is forest and field

  23. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Andy says: “…why couldn’t we have let more Elk and deer tags become available for hunters?”

    > Which brings to mind….why does not New York allow the sale of homegrown, wild venison and elk meat in our supermarkets? I have always thought this very odd that here we have a readily available source of good protein, yet is not available to the public. Is there a reason why the sale of our hunter’s bounty is not allowed in New York? If it was I’d sure as heck be eating venison more than just once every few years!

  24. geogymn says:

    Homegrown, wild venison ? Allowing the sale of wild venison would definitely reduce the over abundance of deer.

  25. Tom Paine says:

    Will a NYS hunting license now require an Econ officer, lawyer and biologist on site for hunting, fishing and trapping? Sounds like this is nothing more than a anti hunting campaign and a backdoor policy to subvert landowner rights.

  26. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Allowing the sale of wild venison would definitely reduce the over abundance of deer.”

    > I don’t see how that would make a difference, but still the question remains….why not the sale of NY venison in our markets? My understanding is that some hunters don’t want the meat, they hunt for the sport only, they leave it up to the butchers to dispose of it any way they wish. It seems to me we should be more mindful of not letting any food go to waste, especially wild game, and especially considering how more and more people are going hungry, or doing without! But then, waste is a well-established pattern of our behavior, our way of doing business….why would we stop that practice now?

    • geogymn says:

      You have a good heart with good intentions…however. If wild venison could be bought and sold there would emerge a case load of market hunters. Hunters who harvest more game than the law allows.
      It wouldn’t be too hard to avoid the short arm of the law in this regard. Not to mention USDA requirements.
      There is a option provided by the DEC to donate your venison to the hungry. I imagine that some of that program is successful.

  27. Pamela Karaz says:

    Commenting for the last time then turning this thread off shortly thereafter because its going nowhere. Tell me this, why is it even allowed to hunt coyotes? Really? To protect what? Deer? It is a known fact that by killing individuals, families have a larger number of offspring. It does NOT reduce the population it only disrupts their natural hierarchy and serves to feed a blood thirsty sport of killing for killings sake as there is no other purpose. Predator killing contests legal in NYS makes me sick to my stomach along with all of the incorrect information spread by coyote haters and hunters that so called “justifies” these contests. Easy answer to ensure protection of this emerging wolf occurrence… stop killing coyotes! PERIOD!

    • Kind of silly to ask a question then turn off the option to reply, is it not? I think it would have made more sense to just state your feelings outright without the pointless rhetorical device. Just sayin.

      • Pamela Karaz says:

        Yes James, my comment is staying up (I meant to say instead that I’ll be unsubscribing from this thread shortly and not that I’m taking it down…). The subject of coyote killing always turns into a heated debate and unlikely any comments here will change anyones opinion on either side…

        • JohnL says:

          Darn Pamela. I was hoping your ‘turning this thread off ” would catch on with the honorable multitude of posters to this site. I haven’t seen a bunch of attitudes changed with all the ink (figuratively speaking) this subject has inspired. So, since this subject has been beaten to within 2.54.cm of its’ life, can we move on to something else. Just a suggestion.

  28. True that! But hope springs eternal.

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