UPDATE: After this sighting, another Rockford Scanner fan Shondale Moss encountered another wolf in the area. This one happened on the rural west side area around 11:30 pm last night. We did some research and talked to the DNR, and come to find out wolfs are popular in the area. They just are not seen that often. There is a lot of wolves in Wisconsin and are migrating south into Illinois. There is even a wolf pack in the Beloit area. Wolves in the area are more common these days. They just are not seen that often.
Shondale Moss took this photo of it, as it approached his vehicle.
This one below was spotted this morning on Rockford rural NW side as well in a fans backyard.
Description and Identification
Wolves are the largest wild canid in North America. Most have coats of grizzled gray or brown with lighter fur on the undersides. However, wolves may also have solid coats of black or white. They have bushy tails, narrow chests, long legs, and large feet.
- Average Length: 4.5 to 6 feet (including 15 to 20 inch tail)
- Average Height: 27 to 33 inches at the shoulder
- Average Weight: 60 to 130 pounds (adult male); 45 to 80 pounds (adult female)
Wolf tracks are approximately 4.5 to 5 inches in length and 3 to 3.5 inches wide. Unlike dog tracks, wolf tracks often appear with the hind track on top of the front track (direct registration).
Animals Often Mistaken for Gray Wolves
Inexperienced observers can easily confuse coyotes, especially those with thick winter coats, with wolves. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has put together a valuable educational resource oncanid identification. The site provides a chart describing the common identification characteristics of wolves, coyotes, and dogs, along with photos of the animals and their tracks.
Status in Illinois
Gray wolves are currently listed as a State Threatened Species and classifed as Federally Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the entire Sate of Illinois. In addition, they are classified as Federally Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service south of Interstate 80.
Gray wolves were extirpated from Illinois before 1860. The IDNR is unaware of any self-sustaining populations or packs residing in Illinois, but they have documented that wolves are moving through and/or temporarily residing in the state. To date, there have been eleven confirmed gray wolves in Illinois since 2000. Genetic information available from some of the wolves indicates that they came from the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment-most likely from Wisconsin.
- A female wolf was killed by a vehicle in Grundy County in February 2015
- A female wolf was killed by a vehicle in La Salle County in December 2013.
- A female wolf that had been radio-collared in Wisconsin was tracked into Stephenson County in December 2012. The radio-signal was not detected the following week. In March 2013, the wolf was found dead near Apple Canyon Lake in Jo Daviess County.
- A female wolf was trapped and released in Whiteside County in December 2012.
- A male wolf and a female wolf were killed in Jo Daviess County in 2011 about 4 miles apart.
- A male wolf was killed by a coyote hunter in Kane County in 2009.
- A male wolf was killed by a coyote hunter in Jo Daviess County in 2008.
- A male wolf was killed by a vehicle immediately north of Chain O’Lakes State Park in Lake County in 2005.
- A male wolf was shot in Pike County in 2005.
- A male wolf was shot during a coyote hunt in Marshall County in 2002.
Six of the eleven wolves were young males. Young wolves (3 years old or less) leave their native packs and may travel long distances to either try to establish a pack of their own or to join another pack. This is typical wolf behavior. It is likely that a small number of other wolves have passed through Illinois over the last decade on their way to surrounding states. Photos and/or tracks of these animals may exist, but without genetic information it is impossible to confirm whether these animals were truly wild (i.e., from Wisconsin) or perhaps wolf-dog hybrids kept as pets that either escaped or were released intentionally by their owners.
The IDNR is interested in any information the public can provide about possible wolf sightings in Illinois. Please include specific location information. If available, please also send photos or track castings. Possible wolf sightings may be reported on-line at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife/sightings_report.cfm or the information may be sent to:
Wildlife Disease and Invasive Wildlife Program Manager
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Division of Wildlife Resources
8542 North Lake Road
Lena, IL 61048
Office Phone (815) 369-2414
Office Fax (815) 369-2128
Illinois DNR/ USFWS Clarify Status of Gray Wolves in Illinois
SPRINGFIELD- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) remind the public that the Serviceï¿½s recent action removing federal Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves in portions of the Midwest has changed the status of wolves in Illinois north of Interstate 80. While wolves dispersing from northern states into Illinois are rare, any gray wolves in Illinois found north of I-80 are listed as threatened under state law, while those south of the interstate remain federally endangered. The change becomes effective January 27, 2012.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed ESA protection for the gray wolf in portions of the western Great Lakes because wolves in the core recovery states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have exceeded recovery goals and no longer need the protection of the Act to survive. In areas where wolves were delisted, which includes parts of adjoining states like northern Illinois where wolves may possibly disperse, states and tribes are now responsible for wolf management. The Service will oversee wolf population monitoring efforts for at least five years to ensure wolves continue to thrive.
Despite the upcoming January 27, 2012 Federal Status change of wolves within the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment [includes all counties north of I-80 in Illinois], wolves remain a protected species throughout the entire State of Illinois. Gray wolves continue to be listed as state-threatened throughout Illinois [by law, specimens listed as state-threatened receive the full protection of the State of Illinoisï¿½ Endangered Species Protection Act], which means it is unlawful for hunters or others to take or possess wolves anywhere in the State. In addition, wolves shall remain protected as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act in Illinois south of I-80 [outside of the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment] for the foreseeable future. See www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf for further details on the status of gray wolves in Illinois and other areas in the Midwest.
In the past 10 years, Illinois hunters and others have encountered wolves in the state on various occasions, including a wolf struck by a car in McHenry County near Chain Oï¿½Lakes State Park in 2005. The potential for range expansion will continue as long as habitat and food sources are available.
While it is unlikely that Illinois citizens will encounter a wolf in the wild, they are encouraged to contact the Illinois DNR at 217-782-6302 if they suspect they have seen one.
Wolves resemble coyotes but are taller, heavier, and have other characteristics that set them apart (go to http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/aboutwolves/index.htm#biology for more information on wolf biology and identification).
Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes were once nearly gone, with wolves surviving only in Minnesota. Under ESA protection and recovery programs, gray wolves have expanded into Michigan and Wisconsin, and the regionï¿½s population has rebounded. There are an estimated 2,921 wolves in Minnesota, 782 in Wisconsin, and 687 in Michigan. Wolves occasionally disperse into adjoining states but no packs have been established in the Midwest outside the core recovery states.
During the time wolves in the western Great Lakes were delisted (from March 12, 2007, to September 29, 2008, and from May 4, 2009, to July 1, 2009) the wolf population remained stable under state management; illegal killing of wolves dropped in Wisconsin and remained the same in Michigan (no data are available for Minnesota).
Report Unusual Wildlife Sightings to IDNR
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources would like your help in reporting sightings of unusual wildlife around the state in order to monitor range expansions of wildlife species or their escape from captive situations. If you think that you may have recently seen a mountain lion, wolf, black bear, armadillo, elk, non-native deer, or feral swine in Illinois, please complete the form found below. All of these species typically avoid direct contact with people. In most cases, it is best to simply alert the public and monitor these animals while they are in an area. Removal of the animal is usually not necessary or practical.
Any unsafe situation should be reported to the police. A number of guidelines should be followed when encountering aggressive wildlife. Avoid areas where aggressive animals have been reported. Alert the landowner and local police immediately. Stay away from dense cover where the animals may hide. Keep a close watch over small children and pets. Keep dogs and other pets leashed when walking. If you encounter an aggressive animal, do not turn and run. Be noisy and aggressive. Throw sticks, rocks, or other objects at the animal or spray it with water in order to frighten it off.
The mountain lion, wolf, elk, and black bear were extirpated (eliminated) from Illinois by the early to mid 1800s due to habitat alteration and hunting pressure. Today, there are no wild breeding populations of these species in Illinois. However, depending on the species, transient animals could find their way into Illinois. Transient animals are typically single, often subadult animals that were born in the wild and traveled from surrounding states in search of a new home area. Additionally, armadillos have been expanding their range northward and are now reported in Illinois, and elk and non-native deer (such as fallow deer or sika deer) are sometimes sighted after escaping from captivity.
If you have seen one of the wildlife species listed below in Illinois, please complete the Unusual Wildlife Sightings report. Be as specific as possible with your description of the animal and include good quality digital images or photographs if available. Photos or images of the animal, tracks (preferably with a ruler next to them for scale), scat, or prey remains can all be useful in helping a biologist confirm the identity of the animal. Large mammals can travel many miles in a single day, so reporting sightings quickly is important. If you are not sure about what type of animal you saw, you can use the species descriptions and website links provided below. The descriptions include photos of the species as well as of animals that are commonly confused with the rare species.
A Rockford Scanner fan sent us this photo of a possible wolf sighting in the area. She spotted it in a local field and snapped a photo of it.
Do you think it is a wolf or a domestic dog?
Note: We are not going to post the exact location, for privacy reasons. But it was here locally in the area and it happened this morning.