Are there wolves in New Marlborough? You bet! The story of the wolf is one of the most compelling tales of American wildlife. Once, the wolf was plentiful in most of North America, but it was hunted ruthlessly and extirpated by 1900 in New England, New York and Southeastern Canada. By 1960 the only wolves in the United States were in Minnesota, in 1974 they were placed on the Endangered Species List, and in 1978 The Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Plan was published. The primary goal of the plan is to maintain and reestablish viable populations of the eastern timber wolf in as much of its former range as possible. One range listed by this wolf recovery plan is in the Adirondack Park in upper New York State, a massive area for reintroduction of the eastern timber wolf.

Extremely wary, elusive and intelligent, these animals stay together in tight packs, silently slipping through barnyards and backyards, roaming the hillsides and fields throughout the night. Wolves, (Canis lupus) mate for life, and when a wolf becomes separated from his pack, it howls. The other members of his pack respond, giving him a sound to guide him home. A wolf howl can last anywhere from 3 to 11 seconds according to the National Wildlife Federation. Wolves are large mammals with long, bushy tails and a dog-like appearance, similar to a German shepherd or Husky. They can weigh between 60 to 120 pounds (coyotes weigh between 30and 50 pounds and are scrawny, with skinny legs). Wolf coloring is usually a mixed gray or grizzly color, though a few are black or white.

Coyotes - Google Images, Photographer unknown.

My husband and I saw the most beautiful, large, all white “dog” early one morning while driving up through the Canaan Valley portion of Southfield near Whiting Ridge Farm. The dirt road runs along the steepest side of Cleveland Mountain, and so the rocky crevices and little caves are ideal habitat for these animals (as well as the wildcats). It was the fall, about ten years ago, when we came upon this white canine. The fog was lifting from the valley, and there in the mist stood this dog… or so we thought. We pulled over and I opened my window to call to it and when it turned, alert and standing tall, staring us down, we knew it was not a dog. It almost scared me – it seemed as if it would come at us if we challenged it, and so I gave a couple shouts and rolled up my window! It flipped its tail, as if irritated, and turned its back on us and walked on down the hill. Several months later, during a particularly snowy winter, my husband and brother spotted this white wolf running through a corn field at the base of the valley near the intersection of Campbell Fall’s Road and Canaan Valley Road. The massive animal had a small baby deer in its mouth, darting through the field, and up the ridge where we first saw it, probably going back to the den. After researching wolves, we do believe this was a timber wolf, although the pure white coloring is seemingly rare. The animal was very large, with a thick fluffy coat and mane, strong sturdy legs, and the most piercing yellow eyes. There was a great feeling of respect when staring into the eyes of this magnificent animal.

White Wolf - Google Images, Photographer unknown.

Not very far down the road, just over the state line on Toby Hill, a Southfield resident spotted an animal trotting through a field so he pulled over, got out and started taking pictures. The animal saw him and ran a short distance up the hill, but then stopped, turning around to stare him down. Ed thought possibly it had something up there it was protecting – food or young, and so it stayed there just watching… and eventually it did trot off, not running, and not frightened at all. My research reveals that wolves usually won’t run, as coyotes do – who will scatter at the first sign of cars, humans or noises unfamiliar to them – wolves, however will not, they may possibly even approach you. They watch humans, and secretly slip around us, usually unseen.

About five years ago, while house sitting near the old Palmer Cemetery on Norfolk Road, I spotted two black wolves early on a hot summer morning getting a drink in a stream running through the field. As a loud trailer truck came roaring down the road, shifting gears, making all sorts of noises, these two animals casually raised their heads and watched it go by, then went back to their drinking – totally unafraid. That same evening at sunset, I saw them again, standing proud on the hilltop by the cemetery.

Timberwolf, Photographer, James M. Richards

On Route 57, near Cassilis Farm a friend of mine saw two wolves on one side of the road and one on the other side, out in the fields late last November. So surprised by this sighting, he turned around and went back and pointed his headlights out into the field, and there they still were, watching him! He said they were large, and had the markings of a Husky dog, but he knew they were wolves, there was wildness about them. The one he depicted to be a female, slightly smaller, really kept up a steady stare. He ended up leaving before they did, as they were romping around not bothered by him at all.

Many more local friends of mine have sighted wolves in New Marlborough, and the story is the same – usually the person is taken by surprise, realizes instantly they are looking at a wolf, with its knowing eyes and take-charge attitude, its very presence strong, challenging and unafraid - a rare sight to behold!

Previously published in the New Marlborough 5 Village News, March 2007

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