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Road kill in Middleton may be timber wolf

Road kill in Middleton may be timber wolf

Road kill in Middleton may be timber wolf

6:23 PM 4/09/02
Ron Seely Environment reporter

Are timber wolves, long thought to be mostly dwellers in Wisconsin’s northern forests, beginning to wander into the Madison area?

Wildlife experts are trying to determine if an 80-pound dog-like animal killed by a vehicle in Middleton last week may actually be a timber wolf. If it is – and the state’s chief wolf biologist thinks it is possible – then it would be the first time in many, many years that a wild wolf has gotten this close to the state Capital.

“Looks like a wolf to me,” said Adrian Wydeven, who heads the state’s wolf management program for the Department of Natural Resources, and had been studying photographs. “It’s bigger than any coyote I’ve ever seen.”

The dead animal was picked up by a DNR warden on April 3 from the median on Highway 12 in front of the Bruce Co. Mike Foy, the DNR wildlife biologist who examined the animal described it in his report as very much like an “oversized coyote” in color. He said it was 5 feet long, from nose to the end of its tailbone. Shoulder height was 29.5 inches. Its front paw was 4.25 inches long and 2.5 inches wide.

Foy said the animal’s muzzle was somewhat too pointed and the animal’s bones were a little too light. But, Foy added in his report, the animal’s ears are rounded, like a wolf’s, and perhaps it’s young, which would explain the lighter bones.

Wydeven said a more positive identification won’t be possible until a necropsy – the animal version of an autopsy – is conducted. That may happen as early as today.Other possibilities are that the animal is a captive wolf that was released or that it is a dog-wolf hybrid.

Wolves are making a comeback in the state after being hunted to near extinction in the 1940s. A program of habitat protection and hunting prohibitions has brought the number of wolves in the state back to around 300.

A few of those wolves have been making their way south. Wydeven said a couple of wolves have been killed by vehicles in Columbia County near Portage and a radio-collared wolf from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was killed by a car near Johnson Creek in March 2001.