90-pound canid (wolf?) shot in Vermont

If this was a wolf, it would be the first true wolf seen in Vermont in over a hundred years. There are wolves to the north in Quebec, but they are not immediately adjacent to Vermont.

It is well known that the “eastern” coyote, which is usually much larger than the “western” coyote, is often a mixture of grey wolf (not dog) and coyote genes. These wolf/coyote hybrids seem well adapted to the New England countryside.

Story in the Boston Globe.

New. Oct. 9. Story with photo of the canid in the Burlington Free Press.



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  1. Jon Way Avatar
    Jon Way

    I’m from eastern Massachusetts and received my PhD studying eastern coyotes. It amazes me that wolves are on the endangered species list in the northeast but you can shoot eastern coyotes year-round in Vermont, NH and Maine. It makes no sense – actually is pretty pathetic both for the coyotes needlessly getting shot and potential recolonizing wolves.
    By the way, eastern coyotes are likely a hybrid between western coyotes and red (not gray) wolves. I and colleagues are anxiously awaiting results from some samples (>50) we have submitted.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It’s good hear from an expert.

    Thanks for info in the genetics of the eastern coyote. I had read it was wolf DNA and assumed that it wasn’t red wolf because of the rarity of red wolves today, but I have also know that the Algonquin (Canada) wolves are closely related to red wolves, that they might be even be red wolves. Do you have the time to shed some light on that?

    I don’t like the year round shooting of coyotes either. I guess it’s a practice from the West that moved East.

    Do you believe the persecution of the coyote has contributed to the rapid evolution of the species?

  3. Jean Ossorio Avatar
    Jean Ossorio

    Mistaken identity (confusing relatively small Mexican gray wolves with coyotes) has been a problem in the Southwest, as well. Some have proposed placing restrictions on killing coyotes in the recovery area, or at least, in known wolf pack territories, but so far, the idea has not gained traction.

    Having seen at least twenty lobos in the wild, I can attest that it can be extremely difficult to distinguish a lobo from a coyote, especially in summer pelage. Unless the wolf has a radio collar, it’s a tough call. Hunters are urged to be careful and know their targets, but clearly, some have failed to do so, probably leading to at least some of the roughly 22 known illegal shootings of Mexican wolves.

  4. John Glowa Avatar
    John Glowa

    Actually, a number of wolves have been killed since 1993 south of the St. Lawrence River. Two were in Maine, two were in New York and one was in southern Quebec, just over the Maine/New Hampshire border. There is a reported wolf pack living in southern Quebec just ten miles from where this animal was killed. State, federal and provincial wildlife officials have known of the existence of this pack for several years-yet did nothing to protect animals that crossed the border. The state and federal governments need to be sued for their failure to adequately protect wolves in the northeast. A court order will probably be the only thing that will eliminate the current “coyote” killing policies that also advocate the killing of wolves.

  5. Rob Edward Avatar

    My two cents: If this animal turns out to be a wild wolf, then the FWS is obligated to prosecute the guy foir shooting it. If they don’t then the citizen-suit provision of the ESA should be used by some group out there to compell the FWS to act.

  6. Dave Collins Avatar
    Dave Collins

    Looks like they have the same brain dead idiots back east as they do in Idaho.

  7. Boots Avatar


    You mean there are brain dead idiots in Idaho too?

  8. Boots Avatar

    Wonder if anyone besides Ralph bothered to read the article.. And chances are actually quite good it is a hybrid illegally set free.

    How come nobody wants to jail THAT guy?


    “Alexander said it was his understanding that Hammond, who voluntarily turned the animal in, would not face charges for shooting a wolf.

    “He did think it was a coyote,” Alexander said.

    Wildlife biologist Peggy Struhsacker, leader of the National Wildlife Federation’s wolf team, said she believes the animal is likely some sort of wolf. “

  9. Erin Miller Avatar

    Someone has to pay though, right?? 😮

  10. md Avatar

    Being from the northeast I take offense for calling us idiots.

    If this animal is a hybrid, why jail someone.

  11. Jonah Avatar


  12. Jonah Avatar

    That is, everyone except the last person to post.

  13. Coyote Trapper Avatar
    Coyote Trapper

    Sounds like many of us would like to see wolves back in the east, but many people are still quick to make judgements before knowing all the facts. Let’s wait and see about this wolf’s DNA and then try working together for a change.

  14. steve Avatar


  15. Mtn Man Avatar
    Mtn Man

    It is either a wolf or a wolf/coyote hybrid, that is for sure. A pure coyote would not grow to be 90 lbs. I have been up close to eastern and western coyotes since the 70’s. The eastern are larger than western coyotes, but not 90 lbs. There is already confirmed DNA evidence estabishing that a 70 lb specimen from Vermont was a coyote/wolf hybrid. I expect the same in this case.

  16. Timber Ho Avatar
    Timber Ho

    Looks like Rob and Dave must be flatlanders, because they obviously dont’ know what the hunting culture is in the northeast. I don’t like to shoot animals for “recreation”, I shoot them to eat them and feed my family. I bet you have never seen a mature deer struggling to walk through the deep snow in northern new england with a pack of “coydogs” bitting its ass and back until it decides to stop walking and lay down, so it can die. Quite a sight, believe me. This may sound cruel, but that is nature and I understand it, but these “hybrids” are supposed to be killing the sick deer and the old deer. When they take mature healthy strong deer, it is an indication that their pack is too big and strong and literally taking the food off from my plate. In instances like that, many of us who depend on filling our tags in the fall to stock up our freezers find these “hybrids” as competitors and I will eliminate my competition if the opportunity presents itself. Therefore, banning shooting of these “hybrids” or prosecuting hunters who shoot these animals is crazy.

  17. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Timber Ho

    Genetic analysis shows they are not coydogs, as you suggest. They are coy-wolves. They are very adapted to the Northeastern United States, and these populations of the coyote/wolf hybrids are strong. They are not a hybrid of coyotes and timber wolf, but of coyotes and the eastern Canada wolf canis lycaon (and further south) the coyote and canis rufus (red wolf).

  18. Bruce Boxall Avatar
    Bruce Boxall

    Timber Ho–if you can afford a computer, I am sure you can afford to go to the grocery store.

  19. red Avatar

    Yes, I am sure ancient subsistence hunters (which modern hunters claim they are not that much different from) ran around shooting their bows and arrows at wolves and coyotes. That surely would have been a win-win situation – spending 50,000 calories trying to track down these predators to save a few hundred calories from preventing them from killing some game.

  20. elkhunter Avatar

    I hunt coyotes cause I enjoy it. They are very challenging to hunt. Plus if you have ever been around coyotes, they are in no way of being in danger of going away. We hunt the crap out of them each year, and yet it seems like there are more than the year before. Are these coyote/wolves in ID also? I thought that wolves and coyotes hated each other, let alone inter-bred, but obviously they must inter-breed sometimes.

  21. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    There is no evidence that canis lupis and coyotes interbreed, but canis lycaon of Eastern Canada and canis rufus do interbreed, one reason why eastern coyotes are so much larger than the ones you shoot.

    See my post earlier.

  22. elkhunter Avatar

    Ya, I will read that, cause the coyotes I shoot are like 18-25 lbs max. Every once in awhile one a little bigger, but not often.

  23. vt_vince Avatar

    Walking my German shepherd dog this morning I spotted first one then another large, gray coyotes. One was trotting casually just off a trail near the top of a hill and the other was sitting in the grass close by. This is pasture that has very light coverage. They saw us, too, although they lingered watching before they left toward better cover. Not overly concerned by our presence. I live in Bennington, Vt. and this morning it was foggy, but the reason I write this was the size of the coyotes. Handsome animals, maybe 20% smaller than my dog or about 60 lbs.

  24. steve Avatar

    Saw a black coyote bow hunting last year, came into my deer bleep call. I love wolves and have a native american company called the Northern Timber Wolf. I see problems coming from cityfied and the non hunter gathers. We now may have a major predator in our back yards. This could be to much nature for the non outdoors folks and the one’s not in the know of the natural way. People of today distance themslves to far from the pain and blood of getting our meals. If you are proud of taking all your meals from a grocery store that someone else put in the work or saw the pain then the things that move you do not move me and would not be understood by a wolf. Only the two legged could bring this earth to its knees and be proud. I new along time ago that eastern coyote was a hybid wolf cross. The wolf did survive, and it lives in our woods. A tribute to the balence and sustaining ways of nature.

  25. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Please look at the topmost story in my blog today about coyotes in the Bay state. Where do you live?

  26. catbestland Avatar

    For years near my home in southern Colorado, I have seen animals that at first I thought to be wolves. When I reported them to CDOW, they flat out denied that it was possible. (This was before the new guidelines and subsequent wolf reporting system were adopted) They insisted that they were big coyotes. They were huge. They were not colered the same as a coyote. They were much lighter grey with none of the tawny color you see in coyotes. The more I learn about coyotes, the more I am convinced they were NOT coyotes.

    The only other thing I could think they could be, are wolf hybrids, pets that have been dumped off in the high country because they became too difficult for their owners to manage (duh, immagine that). Some of these so called hybrids are acutally full wolf but since it is against the law to own one, they say that they are only 7/8 wolf. Hunters have told me that they too, have seen and heard them howl. Why would the CDOW refuse to admit that there may be wolves here?

  27. steve Avatar


    The reason that they would not want there to be wolves out there are many. But the main one is protections for endangered species. I live in Mass. and for years Enviormental Protection and Mass wildlife and officials say there our no offical mountain lions in this state. I saw one I belive hunting Granville Mass. over Ten years ago. There have been numourous reports, and a kill at Quabbin that is recorded as a large cat kill. If there are cats or wolves out there there will need to be protections for them as endangered species. Imagine having to deal with that can of worms on top of all the other considerations brought on wildlife officals and biologists. Land managment would change and reports of kills with compinsation programs for farmer/ranchers and many things to numorous to know yet.

  28. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The reason I suggested you look at the story about Mass. coyotes is that Dr. Jon Way seems to have shown that some of the “coyotes” are really composed almost entirely of wolf genes . . . they aren’t coyotes!

  29. steve Avatar

    Saw and read your articile and a few other post and writings and I guess we have wolves, as they have stated, pure eastern timber and not crosses. I was under the impression that pure wolves needed space and lots of it away from man. This thinking may need to be revised. As you know the hunting season on (coyotes) has increased by a number of weeks. The utes, native peoples of upper utah have a superstition about the western coyote that states if you kill and then skin a coyote, you will release an evil spirit. I would often think about this warning to there hunters and think about how when we shot these animals from air planes in the old days to erradicate there numbers, they actully increased in numbers.
    WE should take pause when we look at what we have here. One of the first signs as I have heard people say is if our eastern coyote acts like a wolf. Eastern coyotes breed once a year, chariteristic of wolves. Wester coyotes would breed two and three times depending on there numbers, stress from disease, or being shot from airplanes. I belive it is easier to kill off for good, geneticly, our wolves, reguardless of sub speices or classifacation. I think I read years ago,[ correct me please on this or what ever I am wrong on] that on the plain states lower 48 there was a pure very large native wolf that was driven to exticntion. I have heard that this large, now extinct wolf, hunted the bison and the larger elks and caribou. They were erradicated by our fear and ignorance of the balence of the echo system they lived in. They were big and stronger than the western canadian wolf. They took down those powerful Bison. When we introduced the smaller canadian version to the area the great spirit had put the larger stronger wolves, they had their troubles. They had to learn to adapt and they seem to be. Now public fears and political preassures are on the move again.
    Ralph, I wonder what we have in store here in N.E. with this new classifacation. A pure N.E> wolf, I thought hybrid, but pure is a surprise.

  30. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Wolves don’t really need a lot of space. It depends on the prey base. They can make it if they aren’t shot too much if there is food to eat.

    Wolves in northern Canada have huge territories because prey is not abundant and often migratory.

    With an abundance of deer in much of Eastern United States (and moose in Maine), there is usually more for them to potentially eat than in most places in the West per square mile).

    Wolves manage to live in Israel in the scraps of habitat that exist in those places where continual unrest make it unsafe for people to enter.

    The study of wolf, coyote and the genetics of many animals is scrambling our old categories, in my opinion.

  31. steve Avatar

    Hey Ralph,

    I had a wolf or a cross for 9 years. His name was spock. The breeder said he was siberian husky but you could not tell because he looked like a wolf. He was the best dog any body could be blessed with to have. This was a decade ago. He died in my arms one nite of a heart attack. He taught me so much about the spirit of love. I was living at the time deep in the woods of western mass. and not talking to people much. I had thrown out the T.V. set and at the time I had no computer or any other technolgy. I was feed up with society and it was just me and my wolf. At that time I took up the natural way spirituality of the first americans. That dog saved me in more ways than I can explain. He was with me were ever I went and we walked together as brothers. I have not spoken of him in years and I miss him deeply. You see the wolf in the native way is the teacher, and he taught me unconditional love and balence. One day I went looking for him and found him eating a live chicken. We lived near a chicken coop and he had captured a live one and he was having his meal. Of couarse the farmer would not have been happy so I desposed of the evidence. I will tell another story. I was hunting one nite in the mountains with my wolf and my weapon of choice has always been my bow and arrow. We had sat for a bit and in the distance I heard a long wailing howl. We listened and then I heard the responce howls. I’ll tell ya, there had to be thirty of them. My wolf got nervous real fast and started to circle me. A minute later I heard or felt the foot steps of a large pack coming my way. I heard them cross the creek and me and my wolf got out of the area in time before the confrintation.
    Started a bus. called the NORTHERN TIMBERWOLF 15 years ago in the spirit of my first wolf SPOCK. I sell native american arts ,gifts , jewery. I have a new buddy now. His name is LAKOTA and he is resting at my feet right now. I named him in the spirit of the people, the granfathers, the old ones. His full name is: lakota sha sha ska wonyia. Translated it means: Lakota (the allies) sha sha (red) ska (white) wonyia (spirit, breath of life) The allies red white spirit breath. We must teach the other two legged the sacred teachings of the 4 legged. I walk in a sacred manner back to creator with not two legs, but six. I follow with a reverance the trail of my wolves. Thankyou sir for speaking up for these (wolf) peoples.

  32. JB Avatar

    For those interested, Vermont has followed in the footsteps of the Western states that have coyote killing tournaments. I saw a wonderful presentation by a qualitative researcher this past summer at a conference in Park City. Here is the citation and Abstract:

    Marc A Boglioli (Drew University, Anthropology, USA)
    13th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (2007) Park City, UT

    Abstract: Although I have conducted ethnographic research on hunting in central Vermont since 1996, one important issue has remained conspicuously absent from my fieldnotes for most of those years: organized hunting protest. That all changed one cold February day in 2005 as protesters from a home-grown animal rights group stood in the parking lot of the Whiting General Store in Addison County, Vermont to voice their opposition to the first annual Howlin’ Hills Coyote Hunt. This coyote-hunting tournament, complete with cash prizes for both the largest and smallest coyotes killed, was characterized as a morally corrupt departure from traditional hunting ethics as understood in rural Vermont. Many sympathized with these protesters – including some avid hunters – and from that day forward Addison County has been caught up in a social drama that may ultimately change the face of hunting in Vermont forever. As editorial pages revealed deep philosophical differences between not only hunters and anti-hunters, but between hunters themselves, a small window opened for a more general moral condemnation of all hunting practices. Drawing on testimony from hunters, animal rights activists, Vermont Fish and Wildlife personnel, and my own experiences at a 2007 coyote tournament, I will explain the positions, agendas, and interactions of the various actors in this drama as they struggle to define the meaning and ethical place of hunting in the 21st century.

  33. JB Avatar

    PS. The presenter noted a particularly controversial aspect of these tournaments was that, in addition to awarding a prize for the largest animal killed, the also awarded a prize for the smallest–meaning, of course, they gave prizes for killing puppies.

  34. D Drisc Avatar
    D Drisc

    reading these posts brings more questions than answers

    I have an old ( almost 200 acres) farm up near the VT/Canada border and enjoy Grouse hunting with my two Setters every fall. I have never had a coyote “encounter” up in Vermont but had two Scary near attacks on my dogs near Boston in a small wooded area.

    the only reason I bring this up is that I believe the lack of wooded habitat combined with NO hunting pressure has only made for a larger problem

    I like to think of Nature as another word for balance and a continued (without absurd tournaments) hunting season on coyotes helps all parties concerned ( deer, livestock, humans and even the coyotes themselves)

    punishing a hunter for shooting an animal that biologists can’t identify( wolf or coyote or a mix) without extensive testing just shows a political agenda against hunting


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan