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Lone wolf in Corbett? Biologists think it's a hybrid

Black wolf-like animal spotted in Corbett is not a wild wolf, biologists say


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Several residents spotted this wolf-like creature Wednesday afternoon in a field down the street from the Corbett Grade School. Many initially believed the animal seen over the past few weeks was a coyote.Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Graziano got a call on the radio Wednesday afternoon just as school was getting out in Corbett.

A crowd had gathered down the street from the grade school on the north side of the highway and everybody was looking out across a big open field.

In the middle of the field, what looked like a black wolf was sitting in the grass, getting up every so often to walk around and hunt for mice.

“It definitely didn’t look like a coyote,” said Graziano, who a few weeks earlier had trouble deciphering whether the same black animal was a coyote or a wolf when he first saw it in that field.

During the past few weeks, Graziano, along with several other people in Corbett, have reported seeing what appears to be a big black coyote or wolf roaming in the area of Corbett Grade School, near Mershon and Rickert roads.

Residents were warned to take extra caution in protecting small children, pets and livestock.

One man who had two animals killed on his property a mile down the road from the school, strongly believes it’s a wolf.

After reports of the supposed wolf sighting in Corbett made their way to local authorities and eventually the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, biologists were moved to take a closer look.

Thursday morning, Michelle Dennehy, wildlife spokesperson at the ODFW office based in Salem, provided a likely explanation.

“Even though it does have a lot of wolf-like characteristics, we don’t believe it’s a wolf,” Dennehy said.

“This animal’s behavior and many of its characteristics lead us to believe it is not likely a wild animal,” she said. “We think it might be a hybrid.”

A hybrid is typically a domesticated wolf bred with a domesticated dog — not a wild wolf that has bred with a domestic dog.

Dennehy said the animal is “wolfy” in body shape and color, but it also has traits that are not wolf-like, including a noticeably small muzzle and nose and clearly pointed ears.

“Its reported behavior so far is not that of a wild wolf,” Dennehy said.

The reports of the animal trotting down the paved road is not wolf-like behavior, she said.

And, as it appears to be the same animal seen near the Corbett school, Dennehy said, in both cases the animal appears to be tame or comfortable near the school, which isn’t normal for a wolf.

Black, wolf-like animal with golden eyes

Trevor Storlie recognized the animal from the field as the same “wolf” he nearly ran down with his truck a couple weeks ago on Rickert Road.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - A dead sheep found on a Corbett mans property one mile down the road from where the black animal was seen in the field.The 43-year-old Corbett resident wonders if it’s also the animal that recently killed a lamb and a black-tailed deer on his property.

On July 1, Storlie found one of the two lambs he got for his sons had been dragged out of its barn and killed, its throat bloody and entrails torn out.

Storlie said dog tracks trailed into the barn and out to the pen where the sheep lay dead.

“I’ve had sheep for 30 years and I’ve never had a full-size lamb taken in the neck and killed, especially around the barn,” he said. His sons’ other lamb had already been killed by a coyote earlier this year, he said.

Storlie said his neighbor saw the lamb get killed.

“He said, ‘Man it’s the biggest black coyote I’ve ever seen in my life,’ “ Storlie said. “But when he went to get his gun to shoot it, the thing was long gone.”

Around Oct. 5, Storlie came home from deer hunting. He said his children kept saying, “There’s a dead deer in the yard.”

The deer’s throat was torn open, and something had fed on its hindquarters.

“Was it this dog?” Storlie asked, referring to the one people saw in the field. “Who knows, but he just happened to be in the area the same time this happened.”

Then, on Monday, Oct. 21, Storlie had an encounter with the strange animal.

Storlie was driving his children to school when he saw it running down Rickert Road toward his truck.

It turned around and started running the other way, Storlie said.

“He tried to dart right into the trees, but kept hitting the fence and having to turn out.”

“I backed up and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Storlie said. “He ran between my truck and the fence.”

Storlie drove right up next to the animal, almost hitting it with his pickup.

“I was looking at it from like two feet away,” he said. “Everybody said it’s just a black coyote, but as a fishing guide who’s been to Alaska a hundred times — that thing’s a wolf. It’s got bright golden eyes. Coyotes don’t have giant golden eyes like wolves do.”

Storlie said he thinks it’s a yearling.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Others have reported seeing the wolf over the past few weeks.“It’s running wild. It’s not like it’s domesticated. And whatever it has eaten, it definitely looks healthy.”

Storlie later agreed that the animal was not behaving entirely like a wolf, and may in fact be nothing more than a wolf hybrid that has been released or escaped.

Dennehy said biologists at ODFW are still interested in following up with the animal to see what they can find out. Biologists have not seen the animal except in photos, and made a judgment based on reported sightings.

At the end of last year, there were 46 known wolves in Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The majority are in northeast Oregon, but wild wolves will naturally disperse to try to find new territory and to mate.

One wolf known as OR7 has travelled to California, but for the past few months has been in southeast Jackson and southwest Klamath County, in a forested area of the Cascades.

At this time there are no known wolves in Multnomah County.




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