Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Proposes to Exclude the Gray Wolf from the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan


The Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) 2005 Wildlife Conservation Strategy listed the gray wolf as a Priority 2 species with occasional animals in the state but no known breeding populations. The two highest program components (Super Strategies) listed for the gray wolf were surveys/monitoring and education/outreach. To our knowledge MDIFW implemented neither component for gray wolves. Now MDIFW proposes to exclude the gray wolf from the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan altogether because they believe it to be extirpated in the state. MDIFW is receiving public comments on their 2015 Plan during a 30 day public comment period that commenced on July 13, 2015. The DRAFT Plan can be found here: Comments can be sent by email to:

The Maine Wolf Coalition, Inc. recently submitted its comments. They are shown below:

The 2005 Wildlife Conservation Strategy listed the gray wolf as a Priority 2 (High Priority) species. The 2015 DRAFT State Wildlife Action Plan makes no mention of the gray wolf whatsoever. The Maine Wolf Coalition, Inc. objects to this omission and requests that the gray wolf be included in the 2015 plan.

On 9/29/2014, Jym St. Pierre of RESTORE: The North Woods submitted the following comments to IFW regarding inclusion of the gray wolf in the 2015 plan, “Our organization has been a leading advocate of wolf recovery for more than 22 years. I do not see the wolf on any lists of Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The wolf was listed as a Priority 2 (High Priority) species in Maine’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy in 2005. The species should again be listed in the new Wildlife Action Plan. Indeed, in light of the proposed delisting under the national Endangered Species Act, the wolf should be evaluated as a Priority 1 SGCN.”

IFW’s response is as follows, “The gray wolf is believed to be extirpated in Maine. Although gray wolves were considered a Priority 2 SGCN species in 2005, we did not have the tools (e.g., genetic testing and use of carbon isotopes) that we now have to determine the origin of large canids found in the state. In 2005, we believed we had physical evidence that wolves were occasionally immigrating into Maine. Since that time, the presence of isotopes indicative of an animal feeding on corn-based foods were found in two wolves killed in Maine. We assumed that these animals likely had been feeding on a corn-based diet in captivity at one time. One animal’s behavior around humans also was indicative of a captive-released animal. MDIFW continues to investigate potential wolf sightings but does not believe SGCN listing is warranted for species absent from Maine.”

IFW’s response is disappointing but typical of an agency that manipulates and omits facts and bases decisions not on science, but on politics.

1) You state that the gray wolf “is believed to be extirpated in Maine.” Upon what facts does IFW express this belief? A belief is neither a fact nor a finding and this belief is certainly not supported by facts or science. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

2) You state that the gray wolf is “absent from Maine.” Is the gray wolf absent from Maine or does your agency simply believe it to be absent from Maine? Upon what scientific basis do you conclude that it is “absent from Maine”?

3) You state that “we” now have the tools “to determine the origin of large canids found in the state” and you cite genetic testing and the use of carbon isotopes as “the tools”. I would point out that these tools existed prior to 2005 when the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy was written, yet the gray wolf was listed in that document.

4) You note that “isotopes indicative of an animal feeding on corn-based foods were found in two wolves killed in Maine (in 1993 and 1996).” Based on this information, IFW “…assumed that these animals likely had been feeding on a corn-based diet in captivity at one time.” On what basis did IFW make this assumption and when is an assumption considered science? Did you consider the possibility that these two wolves may have fed on garbage, livestock, corn-fed deer or other human related foods in the wild during portions of their lives? Wolves are opportunists and will eat what is available. Some wild wolves do eat at garbage dumps and some wild wolves do come into campgrounds where they may be fed. Did IFW even look at the DNA of these two animals? If you had, you would have seen that their DNA is typical of wild wolves from regions of Ontario and Quebec and that their DNA would have been virtually impossible to replicate through captive breeding. In addition, there was no physical evidence whatsoever that these animals had ever been held in captivity. There is evidence that Maine’s 1996 wolf was living wild in the area for a year or more before it was killed by a trapper. Assumptions are not a sufficient basis for decision-making, especially in light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Your response conveniently failed to note the presence of wolves in New York and Vermont that had no corn-based carbon isotopes. How do you account for the existence of these animals and the their relative close proximity to Maine?

5) You state that, “One animal’s behavior around humans also was indicative of a captive-released animal.” What type of behavior is indicative of a captive-released animal? Is it one that is fearful of humans or one that is aggressive toward humans? Is it one that shows little fear of humans? Maine’s 1993, 67 pound female wolf came into a campsite at a small camping area north of Moosehead Lake as the family camping there was cooking hamburgers on the grill. It was killed a couple of days later as it fed on bear bait. It was obviously a hungry animal. Some wild wolves do come into campgrounds and towns and do become acclimated to people, human handouts, and eating pets and garbage. This is not typical wolf behavior, but it does occur and it certainly is not evidence of a “captive-released animal.” Furthermore, the DNA of the 1993 wolf was indicative of a wild wolf from Ontario/Quebec and certainly not the DNA one would expect to see in a captive wolf.

6) You state that IFW “…continues to investigate potential wolf sightings.” I challenge IFW to prove this claim by providing evidence of sightings and investigation of those sightings. The Maine Wolf Coalition, Inc. receives periodic sighting reports and when appropriate forwards them to USFWS and IFW. A sighting report from Gorham, Maine was accompanied by a photograph of a thin, long-legged canid. When asked about the photo, an IFW biologist stated in the press that the animal looked like a wolf, but that the photograph looked as if it was taken in Oregon. In essence, IFW dismissed the report as a hoax. When I contacted the individual who reported the sighting, he stated that no one from IFW had even contacted him to verify that the photo had been taken in Maine. This is the kind of politically driven anti-wolf policy that we have come to expect from IFW.

7) IFW fails to address the FACT that since the 2005 report was issued, wolves have been killed in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Brunswick. Maine lies squarely in the middle of these documented dead wolves.

8) Maine contains tens of thousands of square miles of potentially suitable wolf habitat and abundant prey that would support hundreds of wolves.

9) There are no coyotes in Maine. Maine “coyotes” are actually coyote/wolf hybrids. The upper size range of these “coywolves” is consistent with the size of so-called “eastern” wolves which are found across southern Ontario and Quebec. These smaller wolves average just 45-65 pounds.

10) Maine does not have a legal definition for “coyote” and therefore the “coywolves”, all of which are killed as “coyotes” are being killed illegally. There is no requirement that “coywolves” that are shot in Maine be reported, regardless of size. There is no program to test the DNA of these animals to determine how many are actually wolves.

11) Wolves can travel thousands of miles in search of suitable territory and/or a mate. Documented wolf populations exist in Quebec and Ontario, within sixty miles of New York and within 75 miles of Maine. In fact, Great Lakes wolf populations are within documented dispersal distance of New York and New England. Wolf populations in and around Ontario’s Algonquin Park (the smaller “eastern” wolf) are growing and spreading with increased protection. Although it appears that most wolves that disperse south from Algonquin Park are being killed by hunters and trappers, there is certainly no evidence that all dispersing wolves are being killed before they can reach and cross the St. Lawrence River into New York. Contrary to outdated and unsupported claims, wolves can cross the St. Lawrence River year round. The wolf population in Quebec’s Laurentides Reserve, within 75 miles of Maine is also likely increasing as the result of timber harvesting which promotes growth of the moose population.

In closing, MDIFW’s decision to not include the gray wolf in the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan is driven by politics and has no scientific basis. The facts and the science support a determination that wolves not only can live in Maine, but that they do live in Maine. IFW’s position on the existence of wolves is virtually identical to their position on lynx just a few years ago. They claimed that because there was no evidence of a breeding population, there was no breeding population. (Remember that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.) Once biologists actually started looking for lynx, they actually started finding them. In the case of wolves in the northeast, neither the state nor federal governments are looking for them. The federal government is looking to get out of the wolf business altogether based on repeated and ongoing attempts to delist wolves, including in the northeast where their populations clearly have not recovered. We urge MDIFW to include the wolf in the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan and to begin research to determine the status of wolves in Maine, including but not limited to: track and scat surveys, trail cameras, DNA analyses of large canid scat and large “coywolf” carcasses, mandatory reporting of trapped and shot “coywolves”, and other methods as needed.

John M. Glowa, Sr.

On behalf of:
The Maine Wolf Coalition, Inc.
30 Meadow Wood Drive
South China, ME 04358

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