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Mohawk Animal Control officer helps capture wolf hybrid

AKWESASNE, N.Y. – After receiving reports of a large wolf-like animal in the community, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Animal Control Officer Derek Comins, assisted in the capture of a possible wolf/dog hybrid.

However, soon after the safe capture and placement of the alleged wolf hybrid, the animal went missing. When coming into work early one morning, Comins found a cut lock on the gate and the animal was gone. After two weeks, Comins managed to recapture the animal.

Comins and other tribal officials admitted the disappearance of the animal had been disappointing. “Our priority had been to find a safe place for him,” Comins said.

After the animal’s disappearance in late April, he had been getting reports of the wolf/dog in numerous locations as far away as Canton and Potsdam.

“We thought that somebody had simply released him, but after he didn’t show up in the community for a couple of weeks, we weren’t sure. It was a problem because we worked hard to find a good home for him and he was scheduled to be transported to a licensed facility the following weekend.”

With the animal on the loose, Comins was concerned people would react hastily and kill it. Residents fearing for their safety had killed wolf hybrids roaming the area in the past.

In March, the tribe’s Environment Division, Tribal Police Department and Comins met with representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to review findings on the identity of similar wolf hybrids found roaming around Akwesasne in April 2008.

In 2008, tribal community members had reported several large wolf-like animals to tribal police. Two of the animals were shot and killed. The USFWS had concerns regarding possible Endangered Species Act violations because the animals appeared to be wolves. The animals were taken to a NYSDEC pathology unit for identification.

USFWS and NYSDEC labs determined that the animals were hybrids. The ESA does not protect wolf/dog hybrids. Officials suspect that domestication by humans is most likely because the wolf parentage originates from Alaska. Alaskan wolf migration to Akwesasne without the intervention of humans is unlikely.

Though wolf hybrids may not be protected by the ESA, breeding wolves with dogs is illegal in the State of New York. The reason for the law, according to the tribe, is the danger between the interactions of wolf hybrids and humans.

“Hybrids maintain the instinct for the high level of social order found with pack animals and have no fear of humans. Apparently, when raised with a human family, the hybrids consider the children of the family to be ‘part of the pack,’ which can have disastrous consequences when the hybrid reaches age two to three and the struggle for dominance begins,” the tribe’s release states.

Though these animals can be aggressive, David Staddon, the tribe’s director of public information, said looks can be deceiving. “It was a nice looking animal, his body is long with big paws and he was probably about two years old.”

Staddon was surprised by the attention the animal had been getting. “At first, the animal was a big attraction here. Officer Comins had to ask people to stop visiting because the animal was feeling nervous.”

However, Staddon said the attention worked in the animal’s favor. “There had been a significant amount of interest in this hybrid. We’ve had calls from New Mexico, Virginia and West Virginia to name a few. I even had a call from a woman that has a refuge in West Virginia that had offered to make the nine hour drive to come and pick up the hybrid.”

Comins, Staddon and others were relieved when the animal was recaptured. The capture was kept confidential until the hybrid could be transferred to a licensed facility. The wolf hybrid was transferred to the Wolf Creek Habitat & Rescue in Brookville, Ind. May 13.

“A special thanks to Derek Comins. … for all his work to protect and hold this animal for pick-up,” said Kathy Baudendistel, habitat owner. “We met in a secure location to do the transfer which was a halfway point for both of us. The total trip was 14 hours and it all went well. We named him Mohawk, after the Mohawk people who saved his life.”