People say they saw one. Experts doubt they did.
GALLATIN–When you look up wolf on the state Department of Environmental Conservation website, right at the top of the page it says the status of the wolf in this state is “extirpated”–in other words, wiped out.
The DEC apparently forgot to let the wolves in on the situation. Last week a woman reported seeing one in Gallatin near the Ancram border. Other sightings have also been reported.
The woman, who asked that her name not be used and her exact location not be revealed, lives in the vicinity of the Gallatin Transfer Station.
It was about 6:30 a.m. March 28, when she let her dog, Duke, a hound/greyhound mix, outside.
The property is bordered by an Invisible Fence, and Duke was running along the fence line as if he were about to greet a friend coming to play, she said. Then she noticed an unfamiliar animal approaching.
The animal, which she looked at through binoculars was “big, beefy and solid dark brown in color, with about a 10-inch long black tip on its tail. It had a beautiful coat with no sign of another color or mottling.” It resembled a large German shepherd. Its tail was long but not especially bushy.
It moved close to the fence, then retreated a bit and did not seem at all aggressive.
Still, she feared for her dog’s safety and began screaming, “Bone!” in an attempt to get the dog inside. When Duke finally surrendered to his love of bones and went in the house, the animal outside departed. But then about 15 minutes later, Duke began growling in the kitchen and the woman looked outside to see that the animal was back. “It surprised me. Once an animal is spooked it usually stays away,” she said, but this one came back, it was smelling the ground where Duke had been and then stood there “sniffing the air.”
Though she cannot be 100% sure the animal she saw was a wolf, she said, “it sure looked like one.” She has seen coyotes, which she describes as “scraggly and multicolored.” This animal was different. “It was gorgeous.”
Though she attempted to take a photo, she has a cast on her hand and could not click the button on her small digital camera.
The idea of a wolf making an appearance in the neighborhood does not seem strange to Elaine Levy, who lives just up Route 82 and has seen wolves at her place on at least three occasions.
Mrs. Levy said hunters who are allowed on the property reported seeing a white wolf there 20 years ago. She most recently sighted a wolf on the Taconic State Parkway in northern Dutchess County about three months ago.
While conservation authorities claim wolves do not exist in these parts, Mrs. Levy said, “It’s like mountain lions; people who live here know they are around. We all know it and we protect ourselves.”
That’s why she sent out an email about the sighting to both Gallatin Supervisor Tom Garrick and Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin to let people know the wolf is in the neighborhood.
Anna Morey, who lives off Pat’s Road in Ancram, said she and her son-in-law P.J. Sorice saw a wolf last fall right behind her house. Mrs. Morey said she was sitting at her computer when she saw the “huge” animal come out on the hillside in back of the house and stop just a few feet away from the children’s play yard. She said the animal was “beautiful and healthy-looking.” When the animal started heading toward her mother-in-law’s house, Mrs. Morey said she called over there, because she knew her beagle was outside.
Imogene Morey, Anna’s mother-in-law, confirmed the sighting saying she was sitting on the porch when she saw it “moseying along past her steps” and first thought it was German shepherd. She said she was surprised by the animal and later said to herself, “Gee…that looked like a wolf.”
Anna Morey said that she had no doubt the animal she saw was a wolf and later heard from a neighbor who told her she saw two wolves circling her dog.
DEC Press Officer Lori Severino told The Columbia Paper this week that there is little or no likelihood that a wolf was sighted. She said coyotes and wolves are similar looking, with the wolf ranging in weight from 50 to 100 pounds and coyotes weighing in at 35 to 45 pounds.
The coyote population in New York is 20,000 to 30,000, while the wolf population is non-existent.
The DEC’s wolf page at www.dec.ny.gov/animals says that while the history of wolves in the state is not clear, they once were here. “It is possible that the animals we call coyotes were considered wolves by early settlers and that some portion of historic wolf accounts may have been attributed to the wrong species,” said the site.
According to the townwide email about the sighting, Ancram Conservation Advisory Council member Joe Hoyt, who has background in wildlife biology, said that wolves are not in this area and that coyotes do come in a dark phase and they can be large.
Ancram residents Jono and Jane Meigs wrote in the email, “Given both NY DEC and the range info from Defenders of Wildlife, it is most likely not a wolf, and much more likely to be large coyote or coy dog. One would need a few more sightings and some photos to absolutely confirm or deny a wolf sighting.
“It might be possible, but again not likely, that the animal in question could be an escaped wolf. But, do we know of anyone in the area who might be keeping real wolves?
“Although it may not be a wolf, we do suggest that people exercise caution in dealing with any wild animal, such as a large coyote or black bear, who seems to have become habituated to humans and who are approaching human homes or pets in an unusual way.” Mr. Meigs is the director of the Trevor Zoo at Millbrook School and Mrs. Meigs is the zoo’s director of Conservation Education.
DEC Press spokesman Rick Georgeson said the nearest wolf population is probably somewhere in Canada. He said the DEC is always willing to come out and collect or test evidence of the presence of wolves or other rarely-seen species. “We can only say what we can prove,” said Mr. Georgeson, who did forward The Columbia Paper a story in the Albany Times-Union about a sighting of a large gray wolf along the Hudson River between Newcomb and North River in the Adirondacks in May 2007.
The wolf sighting, if bona fide, would be “a major ecological event,” said Supervisor Bassin.
Supervisor Garrick said he has lived in these parts for 62 years and many animals that he never used to see around here have made a comeback–like bears.
Mr. Garrick said he really did not know if the animal sighted was a wolf because there was no photo, but he hoped it wasn’t his dog, Charlie, a husky, that was causing all the commotion.