Wolves or coyotes? Canine debate continues to brew

This trail camera photo from reader Jerry Schneider of canines entering a Pine County field inspired lots of social media chatter last weekend. Most experts, however, agree that this is a pack of wolves. (Photo courtesy of Jerry Schneider)

Finlayson, Minn. — Jerry Schneider sent Outdoor News a trail camera image late last week from his 240-acre hunting property west of Finlayson. The date stamp shows the camera snapped the image in early August, and the photo clearly shows eight wild canines entering a field on a steamy summer morning.

Outdoor News posted the image on its Facebook page at noon on Friday, Sept. 14, and by Tuesday it’d been shared more than 2,500 times, received 415 comments, and had reached more than 380,000 Facebook users. That made it the most viewed Outdoor News Facebook post ever.

Its viral nature likely has something to do with a question Schneider asked in his email: coyotes or wolves? Schneider, a Cloquet-area resident, said he hears coyotes calling almost nightly on his hunting property (though he’d seen wolves in the past) so he defaulted coyote.

Outdoor News made a few calls to some solid sources. To a person, they agreed, especially after seeing additional photos Schneider provided from the same trail cam sequence, that the images contain a healthy pack of wolves.

Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist for the Minnesota DNR, said the bigger, blockier features of the animals suggest wolf. Females typically whelp in mid-April, so the pups appeared the appropriate size, he said.

“The second one from the left looks like an adult,” Stark said. “And they look pretty typical of the size I would expect that time of year.”

There was no room for debate from Peggy Callahan, executive director of the Wildlife Science Center, a Stacy-based nonprofit education and research center that has housed wolves for decades. For starters, it’s unusual to see a group of coyotes that big, she said.

But she mostly cited the physical traits – tail position and tail length, head and body shape, and the body language and posture obvious to someone who’s been around both species.

“We’ve had wolves in that area since the 1990s, so they’re well established up there,” she said. “At least six pups, and they look good and healthy. No mange. That’s some darn good survivorship.”

Outdoor News thanks Jerry Schneider for submitting the images. See his additional photos of the trail cam sequence, plus quotes from some other hunting and wildlife experts, in Rob Drieslein’s blog at www.outdoornews.com/minnesota

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