Possible red wolf seen on Allegheny Loop Road appears to be a coyote | New


A mysterious creature filmed last month grazing in a grassy area off Allegheny Loop Road has hinted at the possibility of red wolves in Blount County, but experts say the sighting appears to be that of a coyote.

An outdoor enthusiast and his wife – who asked to remain anonymous – living a few miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, captured the photo of the animal using a Wildgame hunting camera mounted on a tree from their property about two-tenths of a mile from their home. Despite a quick and punctual glimpse, this was the first and only sighting.

Over time, the camera, purchased specifically for the purpose of viewing the impressive variety of East Tennessee wildlife, yielded several photos of coyotes, but there was something different about that particular animal – the long, slender legs, short red fur, and large size pointy ears – that instantly sparked research into the ever-elusive and extinct red wolf.

According to Great Smoky Mountains National Park managerial assistant Dana Soehn, the park’s red wolf trial reintroduction project, which began in 1991, was officially completed in 1999.

“Of the 37 released animals and 33 puppies born in the wild, only 10 animals ultimately remained alive. These animals have been transferred to captive breeding programs. Of the additional 60 animals, 32 had an unknown fate, but were presumed dead by project officials based on their monitoring and experience, ”said Soehn, acknowledging that the physical similarities between red wolves and red wolves. coyotes are often confusing.

In fact, this confusion has recently resulted in the emergence of two very different schools of thought regarding the existence – or non-existence – of the red wolf as a species. One theory is that red wolves are a separate species, while others believe that the red wolf is simply a hybrid of the gray wolf and the coyote.

Because these similar characteristics make it difficult to tell the difference between the two, Kim Wheeler, executive director of Red Wolf Coalition Inc., said genetic testing would be the only way to be absolutely sure of the exact species of the animal being photographed. .

“It is possible that there could be red wolf genes in the coyote population since not all wolves were recovered, and we do know that some of the wolves interacted with the coyotes,” explained Bill Stiver, biologist. from the GSMNP fauna, adding that contrary to popular belief, the coyote’s colorations can include black, yellow, tan, gray and even red.

However, there are a few basic indicators that can be used as an aid in the identification process, including the size of the head and muzzle. While red wolves typically have a broad head and a shorter, wider muzzle, a coyote’s head tends to be slightly smaller, with a long, narrow, and pointed muzzle, Wheeler said.

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