Possible wolf captured on film in Terra Nova

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

Published on July 31, 2012

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.