MORRIS – Morris veterinarian David Bainbridge examined this past weekend what appears to be a dead female gray timber wolf.
The animal was brought to the local vet by Illinois Department of Natural Resources officers to be examined and X-rayed.
“It looked like it was a gray timber wolf, at least by visual appearance,” Bainbridge said Tuesday.
He said the injuries were consistent with being hit by a car, and were bad enough to be fatal for the animal.
According to a published report, the wolf was discovered dead alongside a road north of Interstate 80 by a father and son who stopped after seeing the animal they thought was a coyote.
Bainbridge said the conservation officers had contacted Wisconsin officials to check with weight and muzzle dimensions to better determine if it was indeed a timber wolf and believed it was.
He said IDNR would run a DNA test on the animal to see if it was from the Western Great Lakes District wolf population in Wisconsin.
IDNR did not immediately return messages left Tuesday seeking comment.
Wolves rare in Illinois
The wolf is a pack animal that can become isolated once a youngster leaves the pack to form a new pack, Bainbridge said, and he hasn’t heard of any packs in the Morris area.
John Basile of Big Run Wolf Ranch in Lockport said he had seen images of the original sent to him via text message by another media outlet. While he cannot give a definitive answer, the photographs appeared to show a gray timber wolf.
“It looks like the real thing,” he said. “I have three grays here, and it looks identical to them.”
Basile said there are 23 subspecies of wolf, seven or eight of which have become extinct at the hands of man.
He said wolves were reintroduced to the wild in Wisconsin to aid with overpopulation of deer, and they have made a tremendous comeback. He is not aware of them being reintroduced in Illinois, where they are on the endangered species list.
“The animals use railroad tracks, rivers and streams to go anywhere undercover,” Basile said. “They just follow the rails.”
He said the wolves are not a danger to people, as they are extremely afraid of humans.
“They are absolutely no threat to children,” Basile said. “They have incredible senses and know when humans are around and run away. That’s why there isn’t more sightings of them.”
He said in the last 100 years there has only been two or three documented cases of wolves harming a human, and Basile’s opinion is that they were probably provoked or felt cornered. Unfortunately, Hollywood has portrayed them as more vicious than they are, Basile said. In reality, once their stomach is full, they lie around until they are hungry again, leaving what is left of the prey they take down to be eaten by other scavengers, which is necessary in the life cycle, he said.
Basile and Bainbridge both advised pet owners to keep an eye on pets if they are in a known wolf-pack area, as the pack animals will defend their territory, or could view the smaller animal as a food source.
If you think there is a wolf or other endangered species in your area, it should be reported to IDNR by visiting www.dnr.illinois.gov.
Documented Illinois cases of gray wolves
To date, there have been 10 confirmed gray wolves in Illinois since 2000, according to the University of Illinois Extension.
• A female wolf was killed by a vehicle in LaSalle County in December 2013.
• A female wolf that had been radio-collared in Wisconsin was tracked into Stephenson County in December 2012. The radio-signal was not detected the following week. In March 2013, the wolf was found dead in Jo Daviess County.
• A female wolf was trapped and released in Whiteside County in December 2012.
• A male wolf and a female wolf were killed in Jo Daviess County in 2011 about 4 miles apart.
• A male wolf was killed by a coyote hunter in Kane County in 2009.
• A male wolf was killed by a coyote hunter in Jo Daviess County in 2008.
• A male wolf was killed by a vehicle in Lake County in 2005.
• A male wolf was shot in Pike County in 2005.
• A male wolf was shot during a coyote hunt in Marshall County in 2002.