In Chapter 2, page 4, of New Hampshire’s Wildlife Action Plan there is a list titled “NH Species of Greatest Conservation Need.” Among the 177 entries on the list two words, “Eastern Wolf,” caught our eye.
We were taught back in grade school that wolves hadn’t lived in the state for more than a century — so why were they appearing on the list of species with the greatest conservation need? Were they back? We contacted Emily Preston at New Hampshire Fish and Game to find out.
She told us the eastern wolf is indeed extinct in the state. Because it is on the federal list of endangered species it has to be included on the New Hampshire list because, in theory, there is habitat in New Hampshire to support a wolf population.
The reality is different. Preston says the state has changed too much since the last wolf was killed back in 1895 for wolves to become permanent residents again. Not only is the state far more developed, but the ecosystem has had 120 years to adapt to the missing wolves.
Preston says coyotes in New Hampshire have filled the wolves’ niche. They have grown larger and darker than the western coyotes because their DNA has wolf DNA.
That isn’t to say that an occasional vagrant wolf might show up from Canada, but New Hampshire residents who claim to have seen wolves more than likely are seeing a coyote — which isn’t on the list. (WMUR broadcast a story about a possible wolf sighting in 2014.) “It is difficult to tell the two species apart,” Preston says.
The reintroduction of wolves into the state isn’t an option, according to Preston — they have been gone too long. Rather than dwell on things that can’t be done, Preston suggests that conservation-minded citizens take a look at chapter 5 of the Wildlife Action Plan learn how they can personally make a difference.
This was first published Nov. 4, 2015