Saturday, March 08, 2008

Wolves loose in Massachusetts?

This is some very exciting news. After over 150 years of being absent from the state, a wild gray eastern wolf (Canis lupus lycaon*) has been positively ID'ed in western Mass. Unfortunately, it was also shot dead after MassWildlife officials told the farmer whose livestock was being eaten that the culprit was a dog and that the "dog" could be legally shot if it was ever seen again on his property. Well, sure enough, the farmer saw the "dog" and killed it. Only upon inspection of the dead dog wolf did they realize what they had. DNA tests done by the US Fish and Wildlife Service at their Forensics Lab confirmed the identification. (BTW, I always thought that the USFWS Forensics Lab would be a cool place to work). Of course, now there are numerous questions about where this animal came from and if this means that the gray eastern wolf is naturally recolonizing its former New England range.

Personally, I think this is outstanding news - native species, reclaiming their native territories, on their own. The presence of this wolf in western Mass suggests that there are viable green corridors connecting the state with healthy wolf packs in Canada. I'm not sure this state is ready for the reappearance of wolves - I'm sure no one has been discussing the possibility much after over a century of absence - but hopefully, the next wolf won't be so unceremoniously shot.

Speaking of being unceremoniously shot, I find it odd that neither MassWildlife's nor the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game's website has any mention of this event. Clearly, they can't be too thrilled about the wolf being killed, but wouldn't you think the presence of the first wolf in Massachusetts in 160 years would be heralded by the state's wildlife conservation agencies?

*Recent genetic evidence suggests that the eastern wolf is a distinct species and neither a subspecies of the gray wolf, Canis lupus, nor a gray wolf-coyote hybrid as once proposed

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

obviously the wildlife service is more concerned with itself!