When more than a dozen lambs and sheep were slaughtered on a Shelburne farm last fall, wildlife officials suspected either a wolf that had escaped from captivity or a rogue mutt on a hungry rampage.
But after the culprit animal was killed and examined, they found themselves with a bigger mystery: How did a wild eastern gray wolf (Canis lupus), an endangered species absent from the state for more than a century, find its way to western Massachusetts?
Thomas J. Healy, head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast regional office, said Tuesday recent DNA tests at the agency’s Oregon labs confirmed it is the first gray wolf found in New England since a 1993 case in upstate Maine.
The discovery of the 85-pound male wolf may help solidify experts’ theories that the endangered species has been migrating south from Canada and repopulating rural parts of New England.
This wolf, though, was found farther south than any other reported spottings, and nothing indicates it had escaped or been set free by someone keeping it as a pet, authorities said. …
According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the wild gray wolf was considered extinct in Massachusetts by about 1840. One was recorded in Berkshire County in 1918, but was believed to have escaped from domestic captivity.