Wolves in New Hampshire?
A couple of weeks ago as I was driving home from work at night an animal ran out of the forest and across the road in front of my car. I saw it clear as day. It was a wolf...or, at least it looked like the wolves I've seen on TV and in movies. I told my husband about it, but he said I probably saw a coy dog, not a wolf. Well, I've seen coy dogs before and this was definitely NOT an eastern coyote. And its appearance was wild and not domesticated.
Being an obsessive Googler, I searched online for photos of wolves (yup, the animal I saw looked just like the gray wolves I found in the Google images - example at right), but the news articles I found online indicated that there have been no confirmed sightings or killings of wild wolves in New Hampshire in many, many years.
I didn't tell anyone else but my husband about my wolf sighting because I didn't want people to start thinking of me as the next Big Foot-type lunatic!
This morning my officemate, Debbie Duffy, arrived at work and excitedly told me that she'd just seen a wolf run across Rt. 49 (the state highway that connects Waterville Valley to the rest of the world). She, too, Googled wolf photos online and confirmed that, indeed, the animal she saw was a gray wolf.
I was so excited to hear about her sighting and described the animal I had seen to her. "Yes," she exclaimed, "that sounds just like what I saw."
Hmmmm...is it possible that wolves have returned to New Hampshire?
There is a deep cultural fear of wolves. Think "Little Red Riding Hood."
According to information I found online, the gray wolf has been persecuted by man for centuries. In New England the gray wolf was hunted to extinction by the mid 1800s.
In October of 2007, a wolf was shot in a rural area of northern Massachusetts. The animal had been reported to state biologists after a rash of sheep killings on a farm in the area. The day after biologists investigated, the animal was shot by someone other than the farmer. The biologists would not name the guilty party but stomach contents of the animal confirmed that it was predating on sheep.
It was originally assumed that the animal was an escaped wolf but this has proven not to be the case. Biologists and conservationists have long thought that the recovering eastern Canadian population of gray wolves was likely to move south into the areas of northern New England and upstate New York where appropriate habitat exists. It appears that they were right.
According to my research, young male wolves often separate from the pack over the summer and fall to hunt independently. I wonder if that's why Debbie and I saw a lone wolf.
Eric Orff, a Certified Wildlife Biologist, said that New Hampshire, with land that is 90 percent wooded (and Waterville Valley is completely surrounded by the 770,000-acre White Mountain National Forest) and thriving populations of moose, deer and beaver -- prime wolf foods -- has many of the right habitat ingredients to support a wolf population. Within the next few decades, we may see wolves return to New Hampshire on their own.