Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Gray Wolf Killed in East Texas

 A wolf has been killed in East Texas. 

That is not a misprint or a mistake. A gray wolf was shot and killed this past week in a heavily wooded region of East Texas. I will not be revealing the location – please don’t ask – for a variety of reasons. I will say that the man who took the wolf is a close friend of mine and I can absolutely vouch for the authenticity of the story and the photographs included in this post. 

The details are as follows: The property owners where the wolf was taken were decorating for a party they would be hosting the next day. The family noticed the animal skulking about on the edge of the wood line and reported it to my friend. He told me the family members described it as being “as large as a shepherd.” These are people who live in the woods and they know a coyote when they see one. They were quite sure this was no coyote. My friend searched the area, but found no sign of it.

The next day, the animal was seen again – this time by a delivery person who had come to the property. According to the delivery man, the animal fled when it was seen. Another search revealed nothing.

Sunday evening, my friend heard one of his dogs yapping at something in a pasture that was occupied by livestock. Upon investigation, my friend saw a huge, gray, dog-like animal interacting with his pointer. The interaction did not seem aggressive, but knowing coyotes will often act playful in order to lure a domestic dog away from its yard in order to attack it, my friend decided to take no chances. He felt that a huge wolf-like animal near his livestock, dogs, and family was a recipe for disaster and took the shot.

The animal weighed in at 120 lbs. Certainly, this was no coyote. On top of that, it did not look like a coyote; it looked like a wolf. My friend called the local Game Warden who arrived and took possession of the animal. My friend was notified today that the animal has been positively identified as a gray wolf by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

Gray wolves (Canis lupus) once roamed over the western two-thirds of Texas but has long been considered extirpated there. While red wolves once occupied East Texas, gray wolves were always rare there. It has long been believed that the last two gray wolves in Texas were killed in 1970. One was shot on the Cathedral Mountain Ranch, south of Alpine in Brewster County on December 5 and the other was trapped on the Joe Neal Brown Ranch, located near the point where Brewster, Pecos, and Terrell Counties meet. While there have sporadic wolf reports from all over the state since 1970, almost all of them turned out to be coyotes. As for the few sightings that seem intriguing, the more likely candidate was always the red wolf. These facts are what makes this incident so fascinating.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife biologists are almost certain that this animal – though absolutely a gray wolf – was someone’s pet. Whether this unfortunate canid escaped an enclosure or was released will never be known.

I’m sure the biologists are correct and that this was not a truly wild wolf. Wolves are pack animals, not solitary wanderers. Certainly, a pack of wolves – even a small one – would be noticed by authorities and the locals. Still, the next time I am out in the woods and hear the coyotes start to howl and carry on, I will pause and listen a little more closely. My hope is that I will hear an answer to their calls that goes on longer and is a bit deeper, something that might indicate the presence of a wild canid larger than a coyote.

A guy can hope…