November 30, 2020

Another Mystery Beast….Or Not?

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Vermont’s Charlie Hammond shot a coyote, or so he thought, near the northern town of Newport. Newport sits only minutes from the U.S. and Canadian border.

Hammond brought what he thought was a big coyote into Wright’s Sport Shop in Newport to weigh it on the game scales there – 91 pounds. About twice what an average coyote would weigh.

This brought in the professionals who are once again scratching their heads trying to figure out what kind of canine this is and where it came from. The general consensus is that it is not an eastern coyote.

DNA samples have been sent away and speculation being drawn from observation and photographs paint a few different scenarios. One is that this animal is some kind of wolf hybrid and/or a beast that began its life in captivity.

Others are saying it is more than likely some kind of wolf but not sure what kind and from where. Brent Patterson, a research biologist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources who has been studying wolves there, has looked at digital images sent to him and he speculates on what some possibilities could be.

He said via e-mail that he was unsure of what species of wolf it could be, but did not rule of the possibility that it was from the wild. He noted that there is a pack of wolves living in Quebec’s Laurentides Wildlife Reserve on the north side of the St. Lawrence River.

“Of course at the end of the day all we can generate from photos/circumstances, etc., is speculation,” Patterson wrote. “Hopefully, the genetic analyses will more clearly identify the origin of this animal. In the meantime, I see nothing in the photos that precludes this animal from being of wild origin, and if I had to guess, I would say it probably dispersed from the Laurentides.”

Biologists long believed wolves were unable to cross the powerful St. Lawrence River or make it through the urban Quebec City area that’s between the Laurentides Preserve and the U.S. border, but biologists are now aware that wolves might have established a small pack near the Quebec town of Sherbrooke — about 40 miles from where Hammond shot the animal.

In addition, research in Maine has shown that eastern coyotes (Canis latrans) do crossbreed with the eastern Canadian wolf (Canis lycaon). Patterson points out the eastern Canadian wolf has been known to cross with the gray wolf (Canis lupus). It’s possible the animal Hammond shot could have DNA from all three species in its pedigree.

Test results will tell a better story.

Tom Remington

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