AUGUSTA — Maine wildlife officials said Monday that they have known for two weeks that an animal shot dead last September in the Moosehead Lake Region was indeed a wolf.
Sources within the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said tests performed on the carcass had determined that the black animal was a purebred wolf, Canis lupus, and not a hybrid wolf-dog.
While wildlife Commissioner Ray Owens would not release any information about the findings Monday, he confirmed that a meeting was scheduled to be held today with federal and state law enforcement officials concerning the animal.
He said he could not comment until after the meeting.
It has taken six months for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s forensic laboratory in Ashland, Ore., to determine the species of the animal from the skull sent to them by state officials. Samples of DNA taken from Canadian wolves were used to help make the determination.
Because wolves are protected in 48 states by the Endangered Species Act, Allan Groft of Hanover, Pa., who shot the 70-pound animal while bear hunting in the Russell Pond area, could face a federal fine of $100,000 and be sentenced to a year in jail, in addition to state penalties.
The last recorded wolf killing in Maine was in November 1953 by Alton Leighton of Cherryfield. The animal’s skull was identified as a female timber wolf at the U.S. National Museum in Washington, D.C. It was the first wolf reported killed in Maine in 100 years.
It is believed by many that the last-known wolves in the state fled across the border into Canada, where they still exist.
In recent years, the group RESTORE: The North Woods has initiated a crusade for the reintroduction of timber wolves to Maine.