U.S. Fish and Wildlife Confirm Gray Wolf Shot

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A large canid shot in Shelburne last October was an eastern gray wolf, according to Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Healy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region. According to Healy, the Service's National Forensic Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, examined the wolf, conducting both genetic and morphological examinations. Forensic scientists compared the Shelburne canid's DNA to DNA from wolves of known origin and concluded that the individual was an eastern gray wolf. Their structural comparison concluded that the animal was consistent with gray wolf and inconsistent with coyote, domestic dog and wolf-dog hybrids. "We have no indication that this wolf was ever held in captivity," Healy said. "But what we don't know about this wolf's origins far outweighs what we do know."

In mid-October, a Shelburne farmer notified Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife that a canid had killed and partially consumed lambs on his property. A MassWildlife biologist visited the farm and took photographs of the lambs and measured tracks found in the area. The following day, the canid was killed on the farmer's property. The MassWildlife biologist returned to the farm and, upon seeing an apparent wolf, took possession of the carcass. MassWildlife conducted a brief examination, determining that the animal was male, weighed 85 pounds, and the stomach contents included remains of lamb. A wolf researcher from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst also examined the carcass and concurred that it was most likely a wolf. Because wolves are a federally endangered species, MassWildlife contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and turned the carcass over to that agency.

The gray wolf was extirpated from Massachusetts by the mid-1800s. The closest known wolf population to Massachusetts is in the Canadian province of Ontario. Information about gray wolves may be found on the USFWS website. Some researchers have proposed that the eastern wolf should be recognized as a separate species than the western gray wolf, but this proposed separation has not been officially accepted by the scientific community. For more information, contact Tom Healy, USFWS at 413/253-8329.