Sunday, December 20, 2015

Was it a wolf? Maybe

File Photo of a wolf.
We'll probably never know whether the large, gray-colored canine Walt Folendorf saw last Sunday morning along the Red Lake River Greenway was a big dog or a wolf, but the East Grand Forks resident says he thinks it was the latter.
That's a long shot, perhaps, but certainly not impossible, either.
Folendorf says he was walking along the dike near the VFW Arena that morning when he saw the animal running "a good 100 yards" away. It had a collar with a small protrusion Folendorf thought might have been the antenna from a radio-collar like those used on research animals.
Folendorf, who is retired from the military, is an avid deer hunter and says he has seen wolves while hunting near Detroit Lakes, Minn. He said the canine he saw last Sunday was too big to be a coyote, a species that is becoming more common along the Greenway.
He concedes it could have been a German shepherd and, unfortunately, any tracks the animal left long since have been covered up by Wednesday's snow.
"It looked like a wolf," he said. "It was the color of a wolf, but I can't confirm it."
East Grand Forks Police Chief Mike Hedlund said the department hasn't received any reports of possible wolf sightings but agreed it's not beyond the realm of possibility. The Greenway along the Red and Red Lake rivers has become a haven for a variety of wildlife.
"Coyotes are fairly common," Hedlund said. "They report seeing those at night on a regular basis, but even in town, you see coyotes."
John Erb, furbearer and wolf research scientist for the Department of Natural Resources in Grand Rapids, Minn., said the agency is tracking some 30 to 35 wolves with functioning radio-collars as part of ongoing research on the federally protected animals, but none are known to be in the East Grand Forks area.
Also, Erb said, the radio-collars the DNR uses have internal antennas that wouldn't be visible.
"To my knowledge, nobody has deployed a wolf collar with an external antenna for some time," Erb said in an email. "It certainly could be some 'missing' collared wolf we have, but it has been quite a few years since any collars we used had external antennas."
John Williams, regional wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji, said he's not aware of any wolves as far west as East Grand Forks, either. Williams, who spent several years as area DNR wildlife manager in Thief River Falls, said he recalls confirmed sightings west of Thief River Falls in the Goose Lake area of western Pennington County and once heard a secondhand report about wolves going through Viking, Minn.
Also, in 2012, results from DNA testing confirmed a large canine taken by a coyote hunter near Hillsboro, N.D., was a female gray wolf.
In that context, the possibility a wolf was roaming the Greenway in East Grand Forks certainly can't be dismissed.
"I don't know of any we recorded there," Williams said of the Greenway. "But I wouldn't say it would be surprising."
Either way, we'll probably never know. Unless—or, perhaps, until—a wolf sighting is confirmed.
Minnesota has about 2,200 wolves, based on estimates from the winter of 2014-15, the DNR reported.