Wolves in Spearfish? Residents, officials disagree

February 27, 2014

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) — Some Spearfish residents say they've seen wolves in the area, but police and wildlife officials are skeptical.

Mary and Jack Sty believe they saw three wolves near their home in December, and Pete McNamee reported a wolf sighting this week, the Black Hills Pioneer reported.

McNamee said the animal he spotted was "thicker and sturdier" than a coyote. Jack Sty said he initially mistook the animals he saw for deer because of their size, but then he saw the tails. He watched the animals from his house using a rifle scope, from a distance of about 35 yards.

"It was just unquestionable that they were wolves," he said.

"The length of the legs on these wolves were longer than coyotes," he said. "The tracks were, I'd say, about 21/2 times larger than coyotes. Their faces and ears were typical of wolves ... their mannerisms were different too. Coyotes will take off running when you open the door to a truck. These guys just walked off and looked back."

Wildlife officials say wolves occasionally wander through the state, but there isn't suitable habitat for the predator in South Dakota. The closest known population of wolves is in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, according to John Kanta, regional wildlife manager with the state Game, Fish and Parks Department.

The Spearfish sightings probably are cases of mistaken identity, Game, Fish and Parks conservation officer Mike Apland said.

"There have been plenty of sightings of mountain lions that turn up to be orange tabby cats," he said.

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, www.bhpioneer.com