Possible wolf captured on film in Terra Nova

Robin Levinson
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Video of wolf-like animal posted on YouTube from Parks Canada footage

A YouTube video of a lupine-like creature in Bonavista Bay may be evidence of more wolves on the island of Newfoundland.

The video is from wildlife footage of Terra Nova National Park captured by Parks Canada using a motion sensitive camera and was posted on YouTube July 17.

In March, Joe Fleming shot and killed what he thought was a large coyote while hunting on the Bonavista Peninsula.

But later DNA tests proved the beast was a Labrador wolf.

Shane Mahoney, a wildlife expert who works for the Department of Environment and Conservation, says coyotes came to the island in the 1980s by crossing on sea ice. Mahoney says Fleming’s Labrador wolf probably came the same way.

The Newfoundland wolf has been extinct on the island since around 1930, but the grey wolf is common in Labrador.

After tracking and killing one, Fleming thinks there must be more wolves on the island.

While hunting the wolf in March, he noticed a second pair of similar tracks. He didn’t see a second animal.

Later, he saw a photo of a set of unknown tracks on a hunting website.

“They were exactly the same as I seen,” Fleming says.

He says these tracks must belong to another wolf.

Difficult to identify

Mahoney insists it’s impossible to tell if a video or photo sighting is a real wolf without DNA evidence.

“There’s no way that anyone can look at that film and say it’s definitely a wolf.”

Size is one of the most identifiable differences between wolves and coyotes, and scale is difficult to gage on film.

There is also significant cross-breeding between domestic dogs, coyotes and wolves, making appearances deceiving.

According to Mahoney, the department has tested 2,283 large canine predator tissue samples. Of those, none proved to be a wolf.  

Still, Fleming’s confirmed sighting opens up the possibility wolves have returned to Newfoundland.

“One cannot completely dismiss the possibility that there are others,” Mahoney says.

But, Mahoney says, if wolves were established on the island, one would expect sightings of pack-like behaviour.

“The howling; the things wolves are iconically known for,” he says.

So far there has been none, he says.

Despite Mahoney’s skepticism, Fleming remains convinced there are more wolves on the island.

He has seen the footage from Terra Nova and says the animal looks remarkably like the wolf he shot in March.

“It looks like it walks the same,” he says.

Fleming says one thing’s for certain.

“That’s no coyote.”

Parks Canada is looking into the footage to learn more about the animal.

The video can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hb-nu2dYIqM.

robin.levinson@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Parks Canada, Department of Environment and Conservation

Geographic location: Terra Nova, Newfoundland, Bonavista Bay Island of Newfoundland.The Terra Nova National Park

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Recent comments

  • Bring em back
    August 31, 2012 - 08:34

    Humans always try to intervene with wildlife populations either through concervation or hunting to "manage the resource" as we see fit. If they were here before us, then they should be here after us!. How many of these "Unwanted creatures cause harm to people in Labrador". Ive worked inland labrador for years with them around and have never felt threatened. I'd say bring them back and start restoring the ecosystem that we have managed to abuse, and continuously destroy.

  • Richard
    August 14, 2012 - 15:41

    It is great news if wolves have reestablished themselves in Newfoundland. Humans are generally are very intolerant bunch of primates. They will raze a forest to feed their precious dogs and cats, but they cry bloody murder if a wild animal appears.

  • reality twentytwo
    August 07, 2012 - 15:42

    Looks like Newfoundland needs a ecologist of the type the Emma Marris wrote about in her book Rambunctious Garden...... Ecologist that want to turn everything back to Jurassic Park need to be weeded out & replaced with ones that have Man in mind when looking at eco-systems!

  • Original Townie
    August 01, 2012 - 06:19

    To John Glowa.....to answer your question as to why it is surprising wolves have not been seen here earlier, it's because people like Joe Fleming live in NL. If you were a wolf you wouldn't come either considering Fleming's mentality....if it moves shoot it. Human beings....we have so much to learn.

    • william huard
      August 01, 2012 - 22:16

      Now if we could just get the USFWS and the Canadians to do something to protect these wolves that are trying to repopulate into their former range.....Before "sportsmen" (all laugh here) like Mr Fleming make another misidentification and shoot first/ identify target last.

    • history hunter
      August 02, 2012 - 09:09

      The newfoundland wolf weren't killed off by humans the first time around like people think.They didn't have the fire power or the resources to hunt them in that way.Read history on newfoundland wolf.Very few were shot.some people would not think twice about killing a nest full of hornets because they are on their porch or kill a rat because he's in their house or eat a burger at a restaurant.If you're going to shoot your mouth off about wildlife.Go live in the country without your electricity,cell phones,computer and comfort of home,grow vegetables and eat nothing only that and then shoot your mouth off.you were offspring of grand parents who killed everything around them for something to eat especially if it killed their prize milk goat.

    • McCadden
      August 24, 2012 - 22:16

      "Original Townee" is so right! I lived in coastal Labrador years ago and enjoyed the occasional sighting of a wolf. One night, walking on the frozen ice in Mary's Harbour I came within 30 feet of a beautiful wolf who was eating garbage that had been thrown on the ice edge (ballycadders). The moon was full, the sky was huge and this wolf and I spent minutes in a trance of staring at each other. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. "If it moves, shoot it; if it grows, cut it down; if you find trees and grass near St. John's - build another subdivision." I am becoming very disenchanted with living here.

  • John Glowa
    July 31, 2012 - 13:10

    It's definitely a wolf. Not only that, but based solely on appearance, I will say that it is a labrador gray wolf, not a gray/eastern wolf hybrid like those now recolonizing the northeast U.S. and the Atlantic Maritimes. What is surprising is that wolves have not shown up in Newfoundland before this given the narrowness of the Strait of Belle Isle and Newfoundland's tremendous abundance of prey in comparison to Labrador. If Mr. Mahoney is a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Conservation, both he and the agency he works for are burying their heads in the sand. One question that needs to be asked is: Why was that camera set up in that particular location in the first place? Obviously Parks Canada knows something. My guess is that large canid tracks had been seen there for some time previously. It is apparent that either Mr. Mahoney knows little about wolves or is putting spin on this animal to try to convince the public that it is not a wolf. He neglects to mention that many wolves e.g. young dispersers, do not live in packs, that individuals and pairs are usually the first animals to appear in a recolonizing population, and that very little howling, if any, will be heard by humans due to the initially small number of wolves and their likely isolated locations. Unless you're quite a near a wolf pack and listening carefully, you may not hear them. If the government wants to do the responsible thing, they will not downplay this animal, but will instead educate the public about the importance of wolves in the ecosystem, educate hunters about the presence of wolves in Newfoundland, attempt to live trap and collar this animal to determine where it lives and whether or not is part of a pack, and work to find other wolves that may live in Newfoundland in order that they can be properly protected and managed.

  • Judy
    July 31, 2012 - 11:29

    Why did your Telegram reporter interview Shane Mahoney on this item? He does not represent the official Wildlife Division of this province, which is the mandated agency responsible for wildlife in this province. He is merely an outsider who created a breakaway faction of the wildlife division so that he would not have to relocate to the west coast. There's the real wolf.

  • CONCERNED
    July 31, 2012 - 10:57

    Ha hahahahaaaa...touche'...I should have at least spell checked!! Even so....bet they can't!!

  • Economically exciled
    July 31, 2012 - 10:23

    Hopefully with more wolves come less moose. Time to educate the public...Dept of Wildlife/Natural resources... on how to be safe in a wolf habitat...just shooting them is not acceptable.

  • mk
    July 31, 2012 - 09:59

    nature has its ways of equaling out, they took the wolves out alll those years ago, introduced moose that over populated and now the wolves come back and we should let nature take its coarse, maybe now the moose population will go down, meaning less accidents

  • Concerned
    July 31, 2012 - 09:36

    Great - let's publicize these poor creatures so all the hicks in Newfoundland can go out and shot them all again......................

    • even more concerned
      July 31, 2012 - 10:26

      These "hicks" you speak of, tell me, can they at least spell, "shoot?"

  • MBC
    July 31, 2012 - 06:59

    let's get rid of these unwanted creatures.