By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport residents were buzzing this winter about sightings of a large animal roaming around several of the city’s neighborhoods.
Some residents who saw it thought it was a wolf. Some believed it was a large dog. Some thought it was a coyote. Some speculated it was a mix of wolf and coyote while others said it was a mix of dog and wolf/coyote. On Groveport social media sites, residents posted reports about seeing the animal in their yards and along their streets.
Now the mystery is solved.
According to Groveport Police Chief Ralph Portier, “Franklin County Animal Control was able to capture the Husky mix today (Jan. 31) on Grove Street.”
Portier said the Husky mix was seen this winter roaming throughout Groveport near Kroger, Newport, Hendron Road, Founders Bend, Elmont Place, Grove Pointe, and several other neighborhoods.
“We started receiving frantic calls around Jan. 22 about people seeing it in the Tallman Street, Harbinger Drive, and Bixby Road areas,” said Portier.
He said Groveport Police officers also saw the animal wandering around town.
“But police officers are not experts in this field, but clearly the animal was a large mix. We have no reports of any injuries or attacks on anyone or their animals,” said Portier in relation to the sightings.
Portier said police spent many hours trying to find and track the animal and his department worked with other agencies to capture it.
“Franklin County Animal Control was great to work with,” said Portier. “They came out every time they were called. They assisted in every way possible.”
He added that the Department of Agriculture also assisted with staff and tranquilizer equipment.
Wolves and coyotes
Though some residents speculated the captured Husky mix roaming around town was a wolf, circumstances made that possibility unlikely as according to Tony Minamyer, park technician at Walnut Woods Metro Park south of Groveport, there are no wild wolf populations living in Ohio.
“The last wolves were exterminated from the state in the mid 1800s,” said Minamyer. “With protection from the Endangered Species Act, wolves are beginning to repopulate areas in Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”
However, Minamyer said there are individual wolves living in zoos and on the private property of exotic animal permit holders.
“These facilities are routinely inspected and the proper authorities would be notified in the event of an escape,” said Minamyer. “Coyotes and wolves have been known to hybridize with domestic dogs.”
Coyotes, on the other hand, are common in the area.
Portier said the most likely reason coyote might come into town is that they are searching for food.
“Coyotes have been around here for many years,” said Portier. “They move when food sources are diminished. They have been seen travelling all over.”
Minamyer said coyotes live in the area because they have a good food source, many safe places to raise pups, and no natural predators besides humans. He said coyotes are fairly common in this area and have been documented in all 88 Ohio counties.
“Due to a coyote’s intelligence, diverse diet and tolerance of humans, they have the ability to live equally well in cities and more remote areas,” said Minamyer. “One of the main reasons coyotes have become so successful is that they have a very diverse diet. They consume whatever is available, including small rodents, birds, vegetable matter, berries, young or sick deer and road killed animals, and sometimes cats and small dogs.”
Minamyer said that if you are having an issue with coyotes near your home, it’s likely due to them finding food. Covering trash cans and keeping dog and cat food stored in a secure place should improve the situation or you can call the county extension office for help, he said.
When asked what people should do if they come across a wolf or coyote, Minamyer said that, although coyotes are tolerant of people, they do all they can to avoid humans.
“If you do encounter a coyote and it acts sick, injured or aggressive, slowly back away to a place of safety and notify the county game warden or sheriff’s department. Treat them much the same as you would a stray dog that acts aggressive,” said Minamyer.
Portier said if you see a questionable animal wandering around the area, call the police at 614 525-3333 and Franklin County Animal Control at 614 525-3400.