Are There Wolves in New York State?

New York State is home to several wild animals, including exotic ones such as moose,  gray fox, black bear, etc. But several animals are also native to the New York area that are no longer common there due to human activities. One of such animals is the wolf. With several sightings of it within the state, you may wonder, are there wolves in New York State?

There are no wolves in New York State. They’ve been extirpated from the northeast region since 1900. But there have been some recent appearances. The most recent authoritative sighting in New York State was in 2001. However, several parts of the state are habitable for wolves, and they might return.

Although you can find wolves in different zoos all over the state, keeping them as pets in NYC  and other parts of the state is illegal. The same rules apply to coyotes and all other species of undomesticated dogs such as hyenas, foxes, jackals, etc. Here, we discuss whether there are wolves in New York State.

History of Wolves in New York State

Wolves are native to New York and the entire Northeast, especially the Adirondacks. But unregulated hunting and deforestation led to their extinction. As the great Eastern forests home to wolves became farmlands, these wolves were forced to leave or got killed. Since 1900, wolves have left the New York State area.

However, there have been wolf sightings in New York this century. The first confirmed wild wolf sighting in New York after over a century was in 2001. A hunter shot down the wolf in the Adirondacks. This was the first time since 1893 that a wolf was seen in New York. In 1893, someone shot down a wolf near Brandreth Lake in Hamilton County.

In recent years, there have only been a few confirmed sightings of wolves in New York or other northeastern states. In most cases, the wolves are eastern wolves and gray wolves. Due to the law in northeastern states, including New York, that allows the killing of coyotes, most of the confirmed sightings have been dead wolves. This is because hunters mistake wolves for coyotes and usually kill them.

Apart from New York, there have been sightings of wolves in other northeast states such as Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts. The most recent likely sighting of a wolf in New York was on April 12, 2005, when one was shot and killed in Sterling, New York. DNA analysis wasn’t definitive but confirmed it’s likely a wolf. On October 13, 2007, another wolf was shot and killed in Shelburne, Massachusetts and the DNA analysis confirmed it to be an eastern gray wolf.

Places with Wolves in America

There are at least 11 states in the US that have wolves. These include Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Alaska, etc. Although there are no wolves in New York State, the state has several areas that could be a suitable habitat for wolves and is trying to protect them should they return to the state.

There is plenty of uninhabited land in Maine, New York, and other parts of the Northeast. So, it’s possible that the few wolves shot and killed are part of a larger group that is present but not yet detected.

Efforts to Bring Wolves Back to New York

Advocates have been calling for the government to boost the wolf population in New York, citing that they’re key predators and therefore integral to the food chain. However, the Department of Environmental Conservation has said it doesn’t plan to repopulate the area due to its cost. But they may not need to.

Wolves can repopulate the area naturally over time. This is what wolves did in Canada and the Great Lake region. Of course, doing this will take several years to happen. Many areas with wolves are within the dispersal distance. For example, Algonquin National Park in Ontario is 120 miles from New York State. So, the animals can travel from there to New York.

According to experts, the population of wolves in places like Michigan and Wisconsin is increasing. It means they’re migrating along the Great northern lake. Following this trail, they can easily reach New York, searching for new territory.

Already, gray wolves are no longer on the Federal Endangered Species list. But it’s still on the endangered list for New York state. Lawmakers are making efforts to retain it on the New York list. Some states have already supported the reintroduction of wolves, such as Colorado, where residents voted to bring wolves back to the wild areas in the state.

There’s no information as to whether wolves still live in the Adirondacks. If they do, the number is so low that they are unnoticeable.

Wrong Wolf Sightings in New York

Although there hasn’t been any probable sighting of wolves in New York since 2005, many people claim to have seen wolves. In most cases, it’s a different animal. There are coydogs in the state, a mixed breed of dogs and coyotes. They are bigger than coyotes but smaller than wolves. It’s possible to mistake these animals for wolves.

However, most of the sightings since then have been coyotes. While New York might not have wolves, one animal that’s quite common is the coyote. Coyotes are a close family of wolves and resemble wolves, although they’re smaller. Eastern coyotes aren’t native to New York, but they’ve been around since the 1930s and are everywhere now.

You can find them both in rural and urban areas. They’re even in New York City. Coyotes look slightly like dogs, except they have black tips on their tails. They’re about four to five feet long and, from afar, might seem like wolves. However, these animals are great explorers. They can eat anything from smaller animals like mice to plant materials, human food, or even pet foods. This means you might find them rummaging through the garbage for food. So, it’s best not to make food available for them.

Coyotes are still wild animals, no matter how common they appear. It’s important not to move close to them and to keep your pets away from them. While they’re extroverted animals, they’re unlikely to approach humans. But if they should approach, try to make yourself appear bigger and scare them away with loud noises. 

In Conclusion

Wolves are native to New York but no longer in the area. There have been rare sightings recently, but nothing suggests they’re in the state. However, there are a lot of areas habitable for wolves in the New York State and other parts of the northeast US.