As promised: Arkansas’ wolf report

Yes, Virginia; there are wolves in Arkansas.

Here are excerpts from some of the responses I received after requesting readers to share observations concerning wolves.

Central Arkansas: "Wolves howling were a familiar sound to me as a boy in Alaska. I have heard that howl for the past two years, right here in my woods. I have also found a half-eaten deer and a footprint of a wolf, different than most dog prints ... The woods are in Pulaski, Saline, Grant, and on into Jefferson County."

Polk County: "I have recently seen what my husband and I believe is a wolf. We have also seen coyote, fox, bear and bobcat on our deer camera, but this is a first to see [a wolf] ... I wasn't aware we had wolves here in the Ouachita Mountains."

Washington County: "I saw what I thought was a coyote running ... or was it a black bear cub? It ran quick, and was large and black ... The light was fading and ... I thought it was a deer ... but it didn't move like a deer, and as I got closer it slipped through the fence onto my neighbor's property.

"Then tonight on my way home from town in the snow I saw it again on the dirt road. ... I stopped the vehicle and got out, and it took off running across a pasture. It was a large (60-plus pounds) black wolf-like animal. It definitely wasn't a coyote, and not a pet dog either."

Hobbs State Park near Beaver Lake: "I was coming home from working late at a church Halloween house around 2 a.m. when I spotted it as I was pulling into my yard. It was twice the size of any of the coyotes I frequently come across, with shorter ears and a much longer tail, white and gray in color."

Southeast Arkansas: "Another wolf story was called in this past week. In the spring of 1973 a charter plane flew from south Arkansas to northern Minnesota and picked up seven gray wolves--five females and two males. They were loosed just south of Hamburg. The individual brought in the gray wolves to control the deer population that was nipping the tops of newly planted pine saplings. This is from an eyewitness."

Montgomery County: "Late morning; I walked down the crest of a ridge toward a field, and as I turned to look a pair of wolves came into view. They were about 20 feet away from me, and were the most beautiful and magnificent animals I have ever seen in the wild. Before I could even breathe again, they split, one running across the ridge crest about 30 or so feet below me, the other disappearing for a second and then cutting my trail 50-60 feet up the ridge crest.

"Bang! and it was over. They were wolves. It was an instantaneous, maybe instinctive reaction; I knew what they were as fast as the synapses could connect. They were multicolored, from golden to brown and black, with some lightness, tan, maybe, around their muzzles. They were huge, big-chested, and heavily furred. I am reluctant to estimate their weights because of the depth and density of their fur. Maybe 80 pounds. My sighting was in southern Montgomery County on a farm that backs up against miles of Forest Service land."

Beaver Lake: "Last week we spent the night with friends on Beaver Lake. While fishing at sunset we heard multiple howls, along with gunshots. Don't know if the two were related. It was clear and distinct enough to cause discussion, and the consensus ruled out coyotes and owls and considered dogs highly unlikely due to the directions involved. It was a least two howling animals and lasted a couple minutes."

Sharp County: "On Oct. 1 I was doing some deer hunting when at 4:30 p.m. I heard what I am sure was a wolf howl. I hunt in Sharp County on private land, almost on the Missouri border around eight miles east of Mammoth Spring. I am used to coyote sounds as I hear them every night, most just 100 yards from my back door, so I am well experienced in all sounds a coyote will make. This howl while hunting was absolutely the deep multi-octave, long howl of a lone wolf."

North Beaver Lake area: "The first howl was at 4:30 p.m. and the next two were just before dark, around 7 p.m., from the same location, north of me in the next valley. There was never a return call and no coyotes joined in the return."

Mississippi Delta: "This happened probably about 1956 or 1957. About noon, one of the hunters said he thought he had killed a wolf. You could smell it way before you saw it. It was red. Not red red, but red enough to be no other color. No one in the group had ever seen anything like it. All concurred: Consensus it was a red wolf. That was it. As I recall, it was left where it died."

Ouachita County: "I have lived in Ouachita County all my life. I was raised in a hunting family and hunt to this day. I am an avid outdoorsman and live in a remote location. I currently have two large wolves that are hanging around my ranch. I see them regularly at night, and these two guys are not of the coyote family."

I have received reports of at least 12 gray wolves in the state, not counting the private restocking of wolves from Minnesota or old reports of a red wolf killed in the 1950s. It seems that Arkansas has a wolf population of between 75 and 125, considering we surely weren't able to spot every wolf in the state. It seems that northern Arkansas is receiving gray wolves, which are coming from Colorado or Minnesota; the Ouachita County and Central Arkansas wolves could be the offspring of some that were stocked south of Hamburg.

Along with the wolf reports, I learned of numerous cougar sightings. These apex predators, which are only a fraction of their original numbers, are critical in controlling CWD, feral hogs, and bringing back our quail.

So if you see a wolf, cougar, bear, or bobcat, don't shoot.

Email Richard Mason at richard@gibraltarenergy.com.

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