16 Oct 2007

DNA Testing Proves Part-Wolf Shot in Vermont

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Vermont Fish and Wildlife Photo
92-lb. (41.82 kg) animal shot October 1, 2006 in Troy, Vermont

Rutland Herald 10/10:

A 92-pound (41.82 kg) canine shot in Troy last October may be the first confirmed wolf to roam the Green Mountains in more than a century, Vermont officials said Tuesday.

A yearlong investigation into the genetic makeup of the large animal, initially mistaken for a coyote, found “a substantial amount of wolf ancestry,” according to John Austin of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

“We’re trying to be cautious in how we interpret these results,” Austin said Tuesday. “What the information tells us is that the genetic composition, the size of animal … suggests it’s largely of wolf ancestry.”

The animal, shot by a farmer in a Vermont town along the Canadian border Oct. 1, 2006, could well have been a wolf. But scientists say it likely wasn’t wild. Genetic tests conducted at four laboratories, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s forensics laboratory in Ashland, Ore., traced the ancestry of the animal to two separate and geographically distinct populations of wolves. The animal, according to lab conclusions, was almost certainly bred in captivity.

Peggy Struhsacker, a wolf specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, examined the animal after it was shot last October and said Tuesday that laboratory testing supported her initial hunches.

“I looked at all the traits and characteristics of it and believed it was possibly a full wolf or a high-percentage animal because it had all physical characteristics,” Struhsacker said. “That being said, it had too many other characteristics that made me feel it wasn’t a wild wolf.”

The animal’s shoddy coat, uniform nail wear and well-fed gut, she said, all indicated the canine was a domestic pet.

The animal’s origins have significant implications for the state. If the animal was indeed a wild wolf migrating from an existing pack in southern Quebec, it would signal the reappearance of an animal extirpated from the state in the 1800s.

“We’re really interested in trying to determine the origin of large canids when they turn up in New England,” said Kim Royar, a wildlife biologist with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “If it turns out, like the lab suggested, that this animal is of domestic origin, then basically we would assume it had been released into the wild by somebody who had bred it for sale. What we’re interested in is documenting whether there is movement of wolves from wild populations … in eastern Canada down to New England.”

Royar said the state has no evidence that such movement has occurred, though reports of wild wolves in Maine and New Hampshire suggest wolf populations may be crossing into the northeastern United States.

Michael Amaral, endangered species specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the discovery should signal a warning to hunters in the state. The wolf is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and hunters who shoot them, mistakenly or intentionally, he said, face stiff fines.

“Gray wolves, even if they are of captive origin, are a protected species,” Amaral said. “I think the important message for Vermont’s hunters is it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that wolves can get to northern Vermont from existing wolf populations in Canada.”

Charlie Hammond, the man who shot the wolf in Troy, won’t be prosecuted, according to Amaral.

“Because it appears that this animal was of domestic origin … and other circumstances, we are not prosecuting in this case,” Amaral said.

Steve Mcleod is executive director of the Vermont Traditions Coalition, an organization that lobbies on behalf of hunters, farmers and other groups opposed to the reintroduction of the gray wolf to Vermont. He said a resurgence of the animal in the state would signal the decline of deer populations.

“There would be a deer slaughter that would result,” Mcleod said. “The white tail deer is the signature species of Vermont and it would really drastically change the balance of deer in the state over time.”

Austin said the department will have to pinpoint the origin and genetic makeup of the animal before it can fully understand the implications the discovery has for Vermont.

“What we haven’t done is ask an objective wildlife genetics expert … to help us understand what all this information now means to us,” Austin said. “What are the implications of that to wildlife conservation in Vermont? We’re going to work hard to get those answers.”

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Report

A 72 lb. (32.66 kg.) canine was shot in Glover, Vermont in 1997. DNA testing found it was of Gray wolf (Canis lupus) mixed with possibly coyote and domestic dog.

Reports of sightings of unfamiliar canines in Androscoggin County, Maine go back to 1991, and just over a year ago a canine thought to fit the descriptions found in previous accounts killed by an automobile on Route 4 in that county was photographed.

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11 Feedbacks on "DNA Testing Proves Part-Wolf Shot in Vermont"

Amber Moore

I knew that there were wolves in vermont. don’t care waht people say this is proo to me.



Destiny

watz the problem thatz so sad



Joe Southwell

My neighbor in Marlboro Vt has claimed to see a wolf on a regular basis for 6 or 7 years now



Jamie murphy

That doesnt look like a regular 2 me.Regular wolfs have longer legs ,and a longer snout.I think it might be a wolf mix w/ some other kind of dog ,or a new species.



danielle hoyer

do still have death wolf animal skin i would buy it off you!!



Ashley

OMG!!!!!!!! That thing has red eyes it is evil because I saw it on t.v.



Weykooey

there is NO DNA test for Wolf Markers that has been established truthful. Anybody who refers to DNA is full of crap.



BRIAN IN STAMFORD

I think it ashame to kill or wipe out any animal that was here before us if we leave them alone they’ll leave ud alone
but no people can’t leave anything alone



John in New York

This has a short snout, is well fed and looks very much like a Japanese fighting dog.

On DNA…ape DNA differs by 1% of Human DNA so we share 99% and look at the difference (totally different species). I get amused by reports something is a wolf as it shares a lot of the same DNA.



anonymous VT

I agree with the person in stamford. They were here first and we are taking over their home now how fair is that would you like someone to come in your home and take it over no you wouldn’t. Not leting them come back to Vt is a shame. People have a misunderstanding about wolves to much movies and tv I think. And for hunters to say they will take out the deer what the hell do you think your doing. The deer population has nothing to do with wolves, coyotes or any other animal but humans.I like deer but they are over populating themselves. They get into farmers feilds, flowers, fruit trees and hunters don’t seem to be shooting them as much seems they have out smarted you or you guys are just a bad shot no offense.I think wolves are beautiful creatures and not as harmful as everyone may think a little scary yes but like bears and fishers they can be vicious just like your dog anything can if provoked leave them along and they will leave you alone. I’m not an animal rights atavist but i think they should fight for these wolves to come home but like everyone knows that has seen them already they are here and they are only going to populate more and they there is nothing that can be done because they are endangered species after all. I dont need DNA to prove it because they will just lie anyways



bryce

i totally agree with anonymous vt .he sounds like a great person.



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