Wednesday, December 18, 2013
In May 2011, wolf hybrids in the state of Maine became the subject of a planned extinction, when a new law required all the animals to be registered, micro-chipped and neutered to prevent reproduction.
Julie and Gene Mitchell of Detroit with their 2-year-old wolf hybrid named Wolf.
David Leaming/Morning Sentinel
But today, only a handful are listed on a state registry and it's unclear how many undocumented hybrids are out there.
Former Sen. David Trahan, R- Waldoboro, who sponsored the law, said that legislators heard a lot about the dangers of wolf hybrids, a term used to describe any animal that has a wolf, coyote or other wild dog in its ancestral background.
"Experts testified it was imperative to pass a law," Trahan said. "The graphic nature of their attacks on children (was) particularly moving to the committee."
The problem, Trahan said, is that hybrids are instinctively more likely to escape confinement than dogs, and more likely to wreak havoc when they do so.
He pointed to Waldoboro, where a wolf hybrid escaped in July by pushing through a screened window. The animal harmed no people, but killed chickens before being captured by police three days later.
Mike Witte spoke at the May meeting of the advisory council of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife about his concerns over hybrids. He said he has seen them confronting horses and killing chickens.
LAW LACKS TEETH
Today only three wolf hybrid owners in Maine appear on the state registry.
The law, L.D. 11, was enacted as an emergency measure in May 2011, and requires owners to have hybrids neutered or spayed and permanently identified with a microchip or tattoo, or face a $2,500 fine.
Under the law, the state Department of Agriculture and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are charged with compiling lists of wolf hybrids. Those registered before June 1, 2011, are considered pets and put on a list at the Animal Welfare Program in the agricultural department. After the cutoff date, new hybrids are registered as wild animals, or exotic pets, through the wildlife department.
But the law doesn't seem to be having much effect.
Today, the list of wolf hybrid owners includes five animals owned by three people.
"Based on the reporting from the towns there are three licensed in Monmouth, one in Woodville and one in Detroit," wrote Animal Welfare Program Director Liam Hughes in response to an information request. "This is all that have been reported to us."
The list of wolf hybrid owners who have come forward since the cutoff date contains no entries, said Jim Connolly, a regional biologist with the wildlife department.
It's uncertain how many wolf hybrids live in Maine.
"There's not that many around," said Russell Danner, a veterinarian practicing in Waterville. "I've seen two or three in 20 years."
Animal Control Officer Dave Huff, animal control officer for Fairfield, Benton, Clinton and Albion, agrees.
"We have one in Clinton and that's it," he said.
Others have a different sense of Maine's wolf hybrid population.
Jim Doughty, owner of Wolfs Ledge Sanctuary and Education Center in South Bristol, which provides a home for a handful of wolf hybrids and has a mission of educating the public about them, estimates there are between 20,000 and 30,000 in Maine.
"I know of over 100 right now just in this town," Doughty said.
Nationwide population estimates from advocacy groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have ranged between 300,000 and 500,000. If Maine had a proportional share of that number, it would amount to somewhere between 12,600 and 21,000 animals.
But biologist Connolly said that there is no evidence of a large hybrid population, and pet owners' perceptions appear to play a role.
(Continued on page 2)