News

Where wolves? Right here in New Hampshire

Thursday, January 28, 2010

By JESSIE SALISBURY

Correspondent

MASON – People who think they’ve seen a wolf in New Hampshire probably have.

“There are wolves in Coos County and they have been seen as far south as Massachusetts,” wild canine researcher Chris Schadler told a crowd at Town Hall on Friday, Jan. 22, during a program sponsored by the Conservation Commission.

Asked why New Hampshire Fish and Game doesn’t recognize the presence of wild wolves in the state, she said, “Fish and Game does a great job, but they do not have enough people or funds to manage another species.”

The intent of the program, in addition to being entertaining, was to educate people about the relationship between wolves and coyotes and how to coexist with them.

“The coyotes are here and they are going to stay,” she said. “Coyotes are the most adaptable of the wild canines. They can exist anywhere.”

Schadler said several thousand coyotes live in New Hampshire, although they’re rarely seen.

The eastern coyote is part red wolf, she said, “making it bigger and smarter” than the western coyote.

The red wolf is a native of eastern Canada and is considerably smaller than the gray wolf, the predator brought to mind by the word “wolf.” It will breed with the coyote if that’s what’s available, and tests have shown a high percentage of wolf DNA in eastern coyotes.

Schadler presented maps showing the changes of the landscape in the United States since the 1600s – the deforestation and then the gradual return of the forest.

“The wolves were exterminated, leaving a (predator) vacuum into which the coyotes moved,” she said.

The current method of “coyote control,” unrestricted hunting, trapping and other means of extermination, isn’t working, Schadler said.

“When the population is stressed – heavily hunted – it tends to reproduce more and younger,” she said.

Schadler suggested a hunting season, possibly at the same time as deer season, and otherwise leaving coyotes alone. Then, she said, the population would stabilize at the number a region can support.

Schadler said sheep can be protected from coyotes, as she has done for 15 years. That means a secure fence with the bottom buried and vigilant dogs.

The dogs continually “mark” the boundaries of the fence, which deters the coyotes. She said she has had no problems.

And, yes, keep the cats in at night. The favorite food of coyotes is small mammals, including cats. Although, she said, “as many cats are caught by great horned owls.”

Coyotes aren’t large enough to attack adult moose and don’t bother horses, she said.

Schadler lives in Strafford, and has been researching wild dogs for 28 years. She teaches environmental science at Spaulding High School in Rochester, and previously taught at the University of New Hampshire.

She did research for her master’s degree in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where, she said, “The wolves were beginning to return naturally, not reintroduced as they were in Yellowstone.”

She doesn’t believe in re-introduction because natural restrictions aren’t in place.

Each year, Schadler leads a hiking trip in Canada.

“We track wolves for a week,” she said.

She’s also working on a book, “Coyote Nation.”

The program was one of a series presented in memory of Florence Roberts, who donated a 39-acre forest on Valley Road so the southern entrance to the town would remain wild.

Programs are supported by donation. For information on upcoming programs, contact Barbara DeVore at 878-2801 or leahcha@yahoo.com.

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