The inhabitants of the valley tell of sightings of “canids”


This 72-pound taxidermized canid was killed in the late 1990s and is a hybrid between a coyote and a wolf, according to state biologist Kim Royar. (Provided)

Throughout the Route 100 valley, residents have spotted and heard large wolf-like canines this year. While it’s not entirely impossible for people to actually see real wolves, it’s unlikely, according to wildlife biologist Kim Royar.

Royar works for the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, said there are no wolves in Vermont that the department is aware of, but the state’s forests are “saturated” with coyotes. Royar suspects that what people believe to be wolves are probably “big coyotes”.

Although Vermont historically had a population of wolves, they were wiped out when European settlers put a bounty on wolves and clearcut much of the forest, Royar said.

Coyotes, for their part, “are a bit more adaptable” when it comes to food sources, Royar said, so they weren’t as dependent as wolves on having densely forested areas.

“They eat everything from small rodents and deer, to plant matter, apples and cherries, insects and groundhogs, so they can change their food preferences according to what is available.”

Although before the arrival of Europeans, coyotes only lived west of the Mississippi River, they eventually began to move east, across Canada where they bred with wolves. according to some genetic research, and across the St. Lawrence River to Vermont, Royer said.

It was in the early 1900s, when the river was still freezing cold enough for large canids to cross in winter, she said.

Royar explained that based on genetic research conducted by scientist Roland Kays, eastern coyotes tend to weigh on average about 10 pounds more than those found in the western part of the country.

“They have a larger head, they tend to stay in family groups – they’re less solitary than western coyotes,” Royar said.

“So people see these animals behaving a bit more like they perceive a wolf to behave, they look a bit bigger than what people would expect a coyote to look like – and it is very, very difficult to distinguish one from the other without doing so. genetic testing on them.

Looking at for wolves

Usually, wolves have longer legs and wider skulls than coyotes, but, Royar pointed out, “when you see an animal from a distance,” it’s really hard to identify if it’s a. wolf or coyote.

For the past two decades or so, there have been two captured wild dogs that were so large that the state had them tested to see if they were wolves.

One, taken in the late 1990s, weighed 72 pounds, which Royar described as “excessively big for a coyote”.

Another, taken about a decade later, weighed 92 pounds, she said.

The larger animal turned out to be a Canis lupus, or gray wolf, she said, but further tests showed her parents were from two separate population areas, meaning the animal was probably bred in captivity.

“We don’t know what the origin of this animal was,” she said.

The 72-pound animal was a cross between an eastern Canadian wolf and a coyote, Royar said.

She is not sure where this animal came from, but it is possible that it descended from Canada.

“The other complicating problem is that there are people who have wolf hybrids as pets… sometimes these pets are not very conducive to living in a domestic environment… and they end up s ‘escape or people let them go and they go wild,’ Royar said.

She noted that even 45 or 50 pounds for a coyote is unusually large, but not impossible.

“We generally assume that what people are probably seeing,” are large coyotes, Royar said.

While it is not impossible that wolves may have made the trip from Canada to Vermont in recent years, Royar said it was also not very likely, as the area around the border is rather suburban, a difficult landscape for wolves to cross.

Despite this, residents of towns along Route 100 and Route 73 have shared stories of animals they firmly believe are wolves, not coyotes.

Muffie Harvey, from Rochester, said about a year ago she saw a large dog from her porch.

She’s no stranger to coyotes, she says.

“We live in the boonies a bit,” she said, noting that in the past, coydogs and coyotes have caused problems near her home.

But this particular canine caught his eye from his living room window.

“I took the binoculars to look at her, and this creature was huge,” she said, “she was really tall… and she clearly had wolf features.”

She did not see him again, but told him it was clearly not a coyote or coydog like the ones she had seen before.

Linda Deslauriers of Granville also once observed a wolf-like canine.

His sighting took place last November, in Waitsfield. Deslauriers was heading north towards Canada and she saw a large dog heading for the river.

The color and size of the animal immediately made Deslauriers think of a gray wolf.

“He was standing right by the side of the road,” she said. “Seeing the wolf, there was only a sign of welcome and a blessing.”

According to the Deslauriers, the sighting occurred during “a very beautiful winter day, a light snow on the ground and this thing just stood out, magnificent”.

Although Harvey and Deslauriers maintain that the animals they saw were too big and looked like wolves to be coyotes, they and Royar agree that they are curious to hear more stories about the great canines of the region.

Royar noted that people who spy on feral dogs can send photos of them to the department and that F&W staff could help identify if they are wolves, coyotes or a hybrid.

And she hopes that if people see coyotes instead of wolves, they won’t be too disappointed.

Coyotes, she said, “are here to stay… they play an important and positive role in the ecosystem.” And, she added, “they’re pretty cool.”

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