Unlike most, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it had officially identified a large, coyote-like critter shot in western Massachusetts last fall as a gray wolf. In fact, I’m here to tell you that there’s at least one more gray wolf out there because I firmly believe that I saw it last fall about 70 miles from where the Shelburne, Mass. wolf was shot. That big male, which mauled a dozen lambs on an area farm, weighed 85 pounds and it is the first wolf confirmed in the state in 160 years.

Although my “gray wolf” sighting can’t be similarly confirmed, I did have a witness and we both know what we now think that we saw—and what I missed. Wolf

It was late October and the Massachusetts coyote season had just opened. Before heading out to check on one of my food plots, I decided to grab a shotgun and a coyote call. I’ll never forget the encounter largely because when it happened, we both muttered the same words in unison:
“Holy crap—look at the size of that coyote!”

Whether he heard us or saw us, I’m not sure, but before I could raise my shotgun, the “coyote” bounded off into the woods. With nothing to lose, I pulled out my bellows-type rabbit squaller and called. The reaction was instantaneous. The huge critter raced back out of the woods and stood broadside in the center of the food plot just 30 yards away. I fired, but never touched him—trust me, I looked for signs of a hit for more than an hour.

We’ve replayed the encounter dozens of times since that day, and are in complete agreement that the animal we saw weighed at least 70 pounds and was probably closer to 80. If it was a coyote, it’s easily the biggest that either of us has ever seen—and we’ve seen lots of them. Now that we’ve gotten official confirmation on the Shelburne, Mass. gray wolf, we’re convinced that it might not have been a coyote at all.

—Gerry Bethge