Are wolves knocking at our door in Maine?
Last month, an outdoors magazine published an article I had written about gray wolves, and
in the piece, I had said “. . . to see a wolf is to love a wolf . . .”The quote referred to a live wolf
up close and personal, and surprisingly, no
one sent hate mail. Even more telling, several people wrote accolades galore.
Two of the correspondents were extremely knowledgeable about wolves, and one of
them, a wildlife biologist, gave me new information, based on his wolf studies in the
field. But I am getting ahead of
When the average observer sees a
live, male, gray wolf for the first time, nothing
we have read prepares us for the animal’s
size. It catches the eye immediately, a lasting
A large male measures 38
inches tall at the shoulders and nearly seven
feet long from the tip of the tail to the nose,
and a small female stands below 30 inches
and is a little over four feet long. We are talking
big canines that weigh from 55 to 130 pounds, and one Alaskan specimen killed in 1939
tipped the scale at 175 pounds. Can you
imagine 175 pounds of dog?
If 38 inches
means nothing to you, please consider this
quick digression: A large, Maine white-tailed
buck stands 38 inches at the shoulders, and
does are in the 32- to 34-inch range. In short,
if you drove by a wolf pack in a field, you’d be
looking at deer-sized canines.
mature, male wolf lifts its head proud and tall
with perked ears, it looks enormous. The first
time a large wolf in this pose looked at me, it
was standing uphill about 40 yards away. It felt as if we were eyeball to eyeball, and I stand
well over 6 feet.
Another feature on a large,
male wolf captures the observer’s attention.
They have a massive body and head on what
appear to be abnormally long but spindly legs.
Those legs, though, can propel a wolf 60
miles per night, while these predators search
for game. In short, a wolf standing in Augusta
in the evening can trot to Portland by
Do Maine outdoors types want
wolves in Maine? The answer to that question
depends on how this magnificent predator
gets here. A large majority of participants in
The Maine Sportsman magazine’s annual
survey do not mind wolves arriving in the Pine Tree State via their own four paws, but four out
of five people object to introducing wolves with
a program that involves moving wild wolves
here from someplace else.
A survey of a
large, hunting constituency that approves of wolves establishing themselves naturally in
Maine might astound non-hunters, but the
same question appeared in the poll over a period of years with similar results.
Apparently, wolves have just captured the
imagination of those who spend time
Gray wolves live on the North
Shore of the St. Lawrence in nearby Quebec,
and occasionally, they cross that river into the farmlands between Maine and Quebec City
and may even dip into Maine. Wolf proponents
are hoping that these animals eventually set
up a population here.
Richard Bard, a
wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in Jonesboro,
doubts wolves will establish a Maine
population by coming here one or two at a time. He worked for three years in Arizona and
New Mexico, tracking Mexican gray wolves, so
his observations smack of research data
backed by practical experience.
in an e-mail to me, “Wolves moving into this
state one by one or two by two would probably,
to a large extent, disappear as they interbred
Bard emphasized that his
opinions were not necessarily those of DIF&W, and then, he said studies showed that
wolves in low densities are known to breed
Bard agreed with one of my
theories that a solid wolf population would
displace coyotes and probably result in less
deer predation, but in the process, he shot
down one of my erroneous claims on the
subject. I thought quantitative data existed to
back up this assertion about less predation,
but Bard knew of none. He did intimate that he
agreed with me that less predation would probably be the case.
Greg Shute, of Alna,
works for The Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset and also has experience with
wolves, while traveling in Quebec near
Ungava Bay and Baffin Islands.
sighting live wolves has captured his
imagination. Shute once found a large canine
track near Pine Stream on the West Branch of
the Penobscot and has wondered ever since if
it were a large coyote or small wolf.
a good indication species up to a point, but a
big coyote overlaps with a small wolf. Wolf
prints run from 37ý8 to 51ý2 inches long and
23ý8 to 5 inches wide, where a coyote may be from 27ý8 to 51ý2 inches long and 17ý8 to
21ý2 inches wide.
I have a social theory,
easily arguable, I suppose. If a group wants to
reintroduce wolves to Maine, a good start
would be setting up a facility like Bays
Mountain Park, Kingsport, Tennessee or the
Wolf Center in Ely, Minn. Wolves are kept in huge, fenced enclosures, giving folks an
opportunity to see these animals and then fall
Some folks think keeping wolves in
fenced areas is cruel, but at Bays Mountain,
the wolves once escaped and then returned to stand by the fences to get back in. The
attraction? Park officials fed them road-killed
deer, so these symbols of the wilderness had come home to dinner.