Wolf-like Animal Caught on Camera in Southeast Wisconsin
Racine County resident Michael Schwenn shared a video last Tuesday with Milwaukee news outlet TMJ4 that shows what appears to be a wolf-like animal strolling down a residential street. The footage was taken the day before via surveillance camera at his home in Wind Lake between 5:05 a.m. and 5:15 a.m., said Schwenn.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did receive calls about the animal, but are unsure as to its nature--although the video is useful to their investigation.
"We can't determine at this point whether it's a coyote, a wolf, or a wolf-dog hybrid," DNR wildlife biologist Dianne Robinson said. "Definitely something of interest and something unusual."
The DNR planned to conduct an onsite investigation on Wednesday to measure nearby landmarks and estimate the size of the canid.
"At the shoulder, a coyote's going be more in the 20-inch range where a wolf is going to be in the 27 inches range," Robinson said. "It’s a pretty big difference. If we can get out there and we can get a measurement of the animal in the video itself, that will really help us be able to rule out one way or the other."
No incidents of threats or harassment by wolves have been reported in Racine County so far this year, and no documented wolf sightings have taken place in southeast Wisconsin since 2015, when a wolf was spotted in West Bend.
Coyotes are often mistaken for wolves, and many unconfirmed reports of wolf incursions into civilization in this area are actually misidentified coyotes, although it is not impossible this particular creature is a wolf.
"It's rare, once every couple of years," Robinson said. "This would be our once every couple of years. It would be cool, it would be interesting to see."
Young wolves sometimes set out to find their own territory and seek a mate, and if that is the case here, then the animal will likely soon move on when no mate is found, since there is no resident wolf population in this part of the state.
Robinson stated that there is no cause for concern, but residents should keep an eye on their pets. Even if the animal is a coyote, there is still a danger to smaller pets and animals.
She also said that wolf-dog hybrids are required to be registered with the DNR.
Another wolf-like animal made news recently in Montana, when a mysterious canid was shot and killed on a ranch near Denton. That animal remains unidentified, and the Singular Fortean Society is currently awaiting DNA test results from the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
To report a sighting of any large mammal in Wisconsin, the DNR asks that residents use the form found here.
Robinson responded to the Singular Fortean Society's inquiry into the onsite investigation with an emailed statement.
"After a site visit, the DNR was able to determine the animal was >28" at the shoulder and within the size range of a wolf, thus categorizing it as 'wolf-like,'" Robinson wrote. "Some characteristics of the animal (movement and gait, facial and other body features) do not rule out wolf/dog hybrid."
"There are very specific characteristics that can help us distinguish between a wild wolf and wolf/dog hybrid, but we generally need very clear video or picture quality," she explained. "At this point in time we cannot say with certainty if the animal in question is a wild wolf or a wolf/dog hybrid."
"Young wild wolves disperse out of their birth territory on a regular basis, looking to set up a new territory," Robinson said. "We had a confirmed wolf in West Bend approximately 3 years ago, and a confirmed wolf in Oconomowoc approximately 8-10 years ago."
"Radio collared wolves from Wisconsin have also dispersed into Illinois, Iowa, and even Missouri in the past," noted the wildlife biologist. "We do not have a resident wolf population in this area, so without the presence of a mate this animal, if a wild wolf, will not stick around."