Posted by Sudbury Northern Life Reporter Bill Bradley
Have wolves moved into Gatchell?
Landsend Street resident Susan Mayer said she has spotted wolves on top of the Vale Inco slag heaps at the end of Dean Avenue in Gatchell.
"What I saw Sunday afternoon were two very large animals, as big as or bigger than a husky or German Shepherd on top of the slag piles. I am having pictures developed of them."
Mayer had seen them on an earlier occasion and even spotted tracks in her yard.
"Neighbours said they saw four of them in the fall."
Laurentian University biologist Frank Mallory said he doubts the animals are wolves.
"Timber wolves avoid people. They do not frequent open areas, especially those near populated areas," said Mallory.
Unless wolves are rabid, which is rare in the north, people should not fear wolves, said Mallory.
What they could be are coyotes or the larger brush wolves, he said.
"I know a person who has trapped coyotes up there on the slag heaps. Coyotes can run 30 to 40 pounds, whereas a timber wolf can weigh in at 80 to 120 pounds. I know coyotes are breeding there."
Brush wolves, which result from the occasional cross breeding of wolves and coyotes, can weigh up to 60 pounds, he noted.
"Normally the wolves run down coyotes and kill them," said Mallory.
He said the university is conducting a study with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources of the anatomical differences between coyotes, brush wolves and true timber wolves to settle once and for all what is what.
Coyotes are very adaptable.
"Downtown Toronto has them on the Leslie Street Spit, right downtown. So does Los Angeles. They are there to take advantage of garbage, stray cats and the odd small dog running loose."
Mayer said that there used to be a number of stray cats in Gatchell.
"Once there were reports of these animals, then I stopped seeing the stray cats around."
Greater Sudbury's geography is suitable to larger animals visiting because there is a network of  tree covered ridges running right into the city.
"The re-greening process results in some prey species moving in - rabbits, grouse, voles and mice. The trees and shrubs give the predators cover to move in too. There are even moose and deer close to the university and bears moving in in the summer for berry crops on the ridges," said Mallory.
Mallory has been investigating reports of another large predator, the cougar.
"We still continue to get cougar reports but so far no animal carcass or even scat (droppings) from an animal has been collected in Northern Ontario."
Scat brought in for investigation has turned out to be that from lynx and wolves, said Mallory.
Because the main food for cougars is elk, Mallory has been investigating cougar sightings in areas where elk have been released and built up populations.
"When I see the cougar sightings superimposed on areas where elk reside, then I get very interested."