GLADSTONE — Last Thursday night was an eventful one for Bobby Beauchamp. As he was traveling home to Bark River through Gladstone, he hit a large wolf with his pickup.
While driving, Beauchamp saw what he thought was a large dog running across the highway toward Little Bay de Noc — as if it was going to jump the guardrail. But he quickly realized it was coming straight for his vehicle. The animal collided with Beauchamp’s truck, denting his driver side door. After he got out of his car to check on the canine, he noticed it wasn’t a dog, but a wolf.
Kevin Swanson, the wildlife management specialist for the bear and wolf program in Marquette, said having a wolf so close to a residential area is an unusual occurrence.
“I would say it’s a very rare thing,” he said, noting wolves are not usually found in residential areas due to their fear of humans. He believes it must have been hunting and was attracted to deer in the area. Swanson confirmed the animal was a grey wolf.
According to Beauchamp’s stepmother, Kelly Narkooli, Beauchamp hit the wolf at around 10 p.m. Thursday. When Beauchamp made the call to his father, Narkooli said he was in disbelief.
“I kept hearing, ‘No way you hit one’,” she said of the phone call between Beauchamp and his father.
After the call, Narkooli said she and Bobby’s father made their way to the scene of the accident, which occurred along U.S. 2 and 41 and M-35 between the Log Cabin Grill and Bar and BP station in Gladstone.
Upon arrival, Narkooli recalls what surprised her the most was the size of the wolf, which is estimated to have weighed between 130 and 150 pounds.
“Everyone was amazed at how big it was,” she said, adding the wolf’s paw was bigger than Bobby’s father’s hand and its canine teeth were more than an inch and a half in length.
Michigan State Police trooper noticed the situation and stopped, said Narkooli. The trooper was just as surprised as the rest of the people at the scene, she recalled.
Since the accident, Narkooli posted the incident on Facebook, noting how unusual it was that a wolf was so close to a residential area. The post has since exploded on social media as it has gotten over 1,000 shares and counting.
Swanson said the wolf could have been in that area due to many factors including breeding, hunting for deer, or just ranging. Breeding season is in full swing during February, noted Swanson.
He explained that wolves have an average home range of 45 square miles and packs can have a home range of 55 to 129 square miles. Although this isn’t the first incident of an auto accident with a wolf, Swanson said it doesn’t happen every day. A wolf was also struck and killed by a vehicle near OSF St. Francis Hospital several years ago.
As of the last winter counts, Swanson said there are about 618 wolves in the Upper Peninsula, noting this number is a positive growth from previous years, as wolves have been considered an endangered species.
“We have a very viable and robust population,” he said.