State biologists in the Northeast uniformly say that the likelihood of wolf populations in Canada getting a foothold in the Eastern United States is unlikely, if not impossible. But advocates with the Maine Wolf Coalition Inc. say a series of videos they’ve collected in Aroostook County prove wolves are in Maine. 

John Glowa, the founder and president of the 29-year-old coalition, said for the past five years, the coalition has done field work to gather evidence in the form of videos, tracks or scat to prove what they have suspected for decades: Wolves are here. He said the evidence they have is compelling and warrants the state spending more resources to look for wolves.

“In 2019, we started doing field work collecting wolf scat and putting out trail cameras,” Glowa said. “Not until recently have we had phenomenal success with the trail cameras. We’ve photographed several animals that we believe are wolves.

“We acknowledge the only way to be certain is through DNA, but the evidence we have collected certainly points to an Eastern wolf.” 

This image of the canid in northern Maine was taken by Maine Wolf Coalition, Inc., a nonprofit in Maine working to find evidence of and protect wolves in Maine. Courtesy of The Maine Wolf Coalition

Coyotes are not native to Maine. Wolves are native, but were extirpated in the Northeast in the 1800s. Around the 1850s, the Western coyote migrated from the West to the East Coast through the Great Lakes and Canada, breeding with wolves along the way, thus producing a larger coyote in the East than in the West, sometimes called a “coydog.” 

Both the coalition leadership and state biologists in the Northeast agree: Eastern coyotes share genes with wolves as well as domestic dogs, creating a species in the Northeast with a mixture of wolf and coyote DNA.


What confounds the debate is that it’s somewhat unusual in nature for different animal species to breed and create a hybrid species, said Nathan Webb, the wildlife director with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Hybrids do occur, such as with polar bears and grizzly bears, but only rarely, Webb said. 

In Maine, biologists follow up on credible sightings of large canids and collect DNA samples when possible. A recent example, Webb noted, was a large 52-pound canid killed by a hunter in Unity in 2020 that was tested for DNA and proved to be an Eastern coyote.

In Maine, coyote season runs year-round for daylight hunting, and at night from mid-December through August. There is no bag limit.

Webb said the animal on the Coalition’s video released in April is not inconsistent with an Eastern coyote but could warrant further investigation. He said when the Coalition was asked for the location to allow the collection of evidence, they refused, which Glowa confirmed. 

In the past 20 years, Webb said, IFW has received 30 reports of wolf-like animals, but none have been confirmed to be wolves from DNA tests. 

The results in other Northeast states have been similar.


In New York in the past 23 years, there were only six suspicious canids that were tested and two that were confirmed to be wild wolves, said Dan Rosenblatt, the Wildlife Diversity Section head with the Division of Fish and Wildlife in New York state.

“Eastern coyotes are ubiquitous and are known to possess some wolf DNA. Any wild wolf that made its way into New York would potentially breed with an Eastern coyote, resulting in hybrid offspring. Subsequent generations would similarly breed with coyotes, thus further decreasing the proportion of wolf ancestry,” Rosenblatt said in an email.

Vermont state biologist Brehan Furfey agreed, emphasizing that it is “extremely unlikely” that a wolf coming into Vermont from Canada would be anything more than a genetic hybrid.

In Vermont, of the three canids tested by the state since 1997, one in 2006 showed wolf DNA, but “of domestic origin somewhere in its genetic background,” Furfey said.

“I would stress that we don’t know what (population of) wolf was originally here. What does wolf mean here: Eastern wolf, gray wolf or Great Lakes wolf? It has not been clearly defined, so we have to be careful when we talk about wolves in the Northeast,” Furfey said.

“Their genetics would be bred out, given how prevalent coyotes are on the landscape,” Furfey said. “If there were no coyotes here, that would be a different story. You could potentially have a pure-bred Eastern wolf here if you didn’t have any coyotes.”


Moreover, Furfey said developed areas in Canada act as “buffer zones,” keeping wolves from migrating across roads and developments and making it into Vermont. Those “buffer zones” further decrease the likelihood that Eastern wolf populations would gain a foothold in Vermont, Furfey said.

In the past 20 years, New Hampshire has had no viable reports of wolves, said Patrick Tate of New Hampshire Fish and Game. Tate added there are roughly 60,000 deer hunters in the state, many who use trail cameras, yet not one has ever provided video of a wolf-like canid. 

Glowa said state agencies are ignoring the existence of wolves in the Northeast. He called the idea that development serves as a barrier to migrating wolves is not based in science. 

“I’ve driven from Toronto to Montreal. If you look on a map, there is plenty of habitat connectivity,” Glowa said. “A wolf can get from Ontario across the St. Lawrence River to New York state. 

Glowa doesn’t believe the canids in the Maine woods are 100% wolf, but he believes if a canid has a significant percentage of wolf DNA, it should be considered a wolf and protected. The video from Aroostook County, he said, showed a canid “loping with its head down – making it very, very wolf-like.”

“Obviously the strongest evidence is with a DNA sample. But we’ve collected videos and we think they look very wolf-like. We’re finding them relatively easily. We think it’s evidence there are more out there,” said Glowa, from China.


Wolf coalition member Jon Way, in Barnstable, Massachusetts, said state agencies are not getting many reports of wolf-like canids because they’re not looking for them – and since the gray wolf is federally protected, they should.

Way said the more-than 100 samples of scat the coalition plans to have tested in a lab this summer are very similar to wolf scat he’s observed in Yellowstone National Park: 6-to-9-inches long and more than an inch thick. 

Way said it’s entirely possible that wolves from the Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario travel to Maine, because upstate New York is only about 200 miles away and wolves can travel hundreds of miles. 

“My beef is they’re not monitoring and testing what animals are here. When you look at (our videos) they could be Eastern coyotes, sure. But there’s a lot of evidence they could be wolves: the blocky head, the bigger looking animal. My beef is that from New York up to Maine, they’re denying it. They clearly don’t want wolves in the Northeast,” Way said.

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