OHIO VALLEY— While wolves once were an apex predator of Ohio, one typically does not think of them as wandering about Gallia County any more.
That might be changing.
According to Gallia County Dog Warden Laurie Cardillo, she thinks a trend may be rising in southern Ohio in the number of wolf-dog hybrids being homed with private individuals. Shelter workers found one such dog, Stormy, wandering near the Gallia County Canine Shelter last Tuesday. The dog had apparently been tied to the septic tank lid near the structure and chewed herself to freedom through her restraint.
“She ran around here for a couple days,” Cardillo said. “We finally got a call that a girl on State Route 850 had her in a kennel. She’s about a year-and-a-half-old. We think there are probably a few more out in the county.”
Cardillo said a local citizen messaged the shelter’s social media page that an individual had tried to give the dog to him and that the animal left at the shelter may have been suspected to be the same wolfdog. Shelter workers had trouble initially collecting the animal as she was shy and likely to run.
The warden said Stormy was good with canned food for a few days, but once introduced to a raw meat diet she would regurgitate the canned food.
Cardillo made contact with the Southern Ohio Wolf Sanctuary located in Chesapeake. Facility operator John DeBoard met with Cardillo in Proctorville on Saturday to assume care over Stormy, who is thought to be a low- to mid-blood content hybrid, meaning she may have not had a wolf parent but a hybrid wolf parent, according to Cardillo.
Cardillo said DeBoard had little trouble collecting the animal or directing her, due to his experience with the hybrids. DeBoard has told Cardillo that Stormy is seemingly doing well with the rest of the pack at the sanctuary.
The warden said in her experience this was the first wolfdog hybrid she had found about the county.
“I don’t recommend just anybody keeping these (animals) as pets because it’s a misunderstood (animal),” Cardillo said. “It takes somebody that really understands the hybrid breed and knows you can’t make a full-time house pet out of them. You’ve got to have a lot of time and resources. You can’t have a 10- or 12-hour a day job and have one of those. You’re going to come home and the inside of your house is going to be destroyed. They need constant (attention).”
Cardillo said that many such animals have been acquired through flea markets. However, buyers beware. Sellers may tell a potential customer anything about an animal that may not truly be of wolf stock just to make a sale. Also, wolf hybrids, and wolves themselves, mature to adulthood by the ages of two or three. They then become highly independent and may not listen to an owner regardless of training and, therefore, potentially unpredictable.
Wolfdogs that make their way to the Southern Ohio Wolf Sanctuary are rehabilitated as best as possible. Animals that cannot be homed are kept for the duration of their lives at the shelter. Others are strictly observed as well as families looking to adopt them.
Hybrids are currently illegal to privately own in Alaska, Connecticut, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Wyoming.
According to missionwolf.org, wolves typically have bigger skulls in relation to dogs. Their chests and hips are narrower. Their legs are longer and paws are larger in comparison to a typical dogs body size. The snouts on such animals tend to be longer and narrower as well. Dogs develop to the mental capacity of a 10- to 30-day old wolf pup. Wolves, on the whole, are more intelligent animals, the website states.
Meigs County Dog Warden Colleen MurphySmith and Assistant Dog Warden Dee Cummins received training earlier this year to help identify the predator in livestock kills, and Smith said the subject of coydogs and wolfdogs came up, but so far, none have come to their attention.
“Hopefully, the reason we at the center haven’t seen any of these dogs is because their owners are being responsible, but we certainly have them in the county. We just haven’t encountered any at this time,” Smith said.
She voiced the same concerns as her counterpart in Gallia County and said these dogs are different; they are more difficult to train and do not respond in the same way as their domesticated relatives.
“Even through it may seem to be an equal mix of dog and either coyote or wolf, I feel the wild part is dominant,” she said. “They become bored more easily and it is difficult to train a dog who doesn’t care if he defecates in his bed as opposed to domestic dogs that really want to learn and please their owners.”
She said she believes coydogs are a result of accidental breeding, unlike most wolfdogs that are, at least in southeastern Ohio, intentionally bred.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103. Lorna Hart in Meigs County contributed to this story.
Reach Dean Wright at email@example.com.