The person who wrote the initial posting said that she thought she saw a wolf roaming near the park on Christmas day.
“Not a dog. Really, and not a coyote either,” she wrote on Watercooler. “It was probably about 80 lbs and seemed calm. When I went out the door, it went into the trees behind my neighbor’s house and watched me, then trotted off.”
Others weighed in, with one saying she had seen a wolf in Essex Fells, and another saying she had seen what she thought was a wolf in Yantacaw Brook Park. Others said that the animal was more likely a coyote or a mixed breed “wolf dog.”
Baristanet spoke to Jim Stein at the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, N.J., who told us that there “have not been wolves in New Jersey for about 100 years, so it is very unlikely they are seeing a wolf.”
He added that he frequently gets calls and emails from people claiming that there are wolves in their backyards, but that the animal is always a coyote, of which there are plenty in the state.
“In New Jersey, we have very big coyotes,” he said. “Some have been recorded over 60 pounds and they look similar [to wolves]” so it’s an easy mistake to make.
The woman who wrote the initial posting on Watercooler, a Montclair resident named Liz, confirmed to Baristanet that she thought she saw a wolf, and that it was definitely not a coyote or a husky, but that it could have possibly been a hybrid wolf, as some Watercooler posters suggested.
Stein says that’s a possibility too. A hybrid wolf, or wolfdog, is one that is the offspring of a dog and a wolf. The animals are illegal in most states, but not in New Jersey. (One such creature was recently found roaming the streets of Queens—they are illegal in New York—and was brought to Howling Woods Farm in Jackson.) Stein said that hybrid wolves often get out, and that there have been many cases of wandering hybrids in Hunterdon County.
But are there wolfdogs wandering around Essex County? Perhaps we’ll never know for sure. But if you’re the owner of a wolf-dog hybrid that’s been hanging out at the town parks lately, let us know!