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MN: The not so ‘big bad wolf:’ Animal killed in central Minn. weighs less than originally estimated

By Celeste Edenloff

ALEXANDRIA, Minn.—A wolf hit and killed by a truck in Douglas County last week turned out to weigh a little less than originally thought.

After being brought to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Glenwood, the wolf was weighed and came in at only 67 pounds. This is about 30 pounds less than the estimate by Douglas County Sheriff deputies, who were on scene and called the DNR.

Nancy Gibson, co-founder of the International Wolf Center in Ely, said a typical male wolf in Minnesota weighs between 70-85 pounds. The largest wolf subspecies, she said, lives in Canada and parts of Alaska and can weigh up to 150 pounds, though that would be somewhat rare.

The accident that killed the wolf occurred shortly before 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 9 east of Rose City on Douglas County Road 14 near Hemlock Road.

Last week, after a story about the wolf was published, there were numerous comments on the Echo Press Facebook page about wolf sightings in that area, as well as in other parts of the county.

Mitch Lawler, a DNR conservation officer who brought the wolf to the DNR office in Glenwood, said it’s rare for wolves to be in Douglas County and that people often mistake other animals for wolves.

“Big coyotes are commonly mistaken for wolves,” Lawler said. “I would definitely put this in the rare category for this area.”

Lawler said the wolf wasn’t collared, so it wasn’t being tracked for research. He said the wolf had one little patch of mange on it, which is a skin disease caused by tiny parasites. Other than that, it was a healthy animal. The male wolf was probably a “very large juvenile,” he said.

Jason Strege, the assistant wildlife manager at the Glenwood DNR office, agreed with Lawler that it is rare to see wolves in the Douglas County area, but not as uncommon as some may think. He said Douglas County is on the edge of the wolf range for this part of Minnesota.

Gibson said wolves, especially 1- to 2-year-olds, disperse into new territories and try to find a mate and a supply of food. During breeding season, males and females can travel hundreds of miles searching for good habitat.

“Douglas County has some appropriate habitat from what I know and see on maps,” Gibson said.

The northern third of Minnesota, she added, is the primary habitat for wolves, but they do like to “push the envelope” for new territories. She said there are some near Mille Lacs County and as far south as Isanti County.

 Gibson said she believes that people who think they have seen a wolf in reality saw a coyote. This time of year, she said, coyotes are “very fluffy,” so they are bigger and often mistaken for wolves.

Strege noted that the wolf will be skinned and the hide will be tanned and put on display for educational purposes. He said it would be great to have it displayed with the hide of a coyote to show the difference in size.

“Wolves are an impressive animal,” Strege said.

Lawler said he is hoping to have the wolf hide displayed at this year’s Douglas County Fair.

Once an endangered species, the wolf population in the state is pretty stable, according to Gibson. She said the current population is roughly 3,200.

For more information about wolves, go to the International Wolf Center’s website at www.wolf.org, its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/InternationalWolfCenter/ or visit them at 1396 Highway 169, Ely, Minnesota.

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