CORNER BROOK — There was one shot and killed on the Bonavista Peninsula last March and one may have been captured on video in Terra Nova National Park more recently.
Now, a Corner Brook man thinks he may have found evidence of a wolf in western Newfoundland.
In fact, Andy Sweetland is sure he has seen the same tracks of a rather large canine in the same spot months apart.
Sweetland was running through an area of Lady Slipper Road west of Corner Brook in early spring when he first noticed the large paw prints. There were human footprints in the area too, though not as fresh as the animal tracks, and he thought maybe it was just a dog.
"I couldn't really prove it was something wild, but it did have big claws," said Sweetland.
On July 26, Sweetland a buddy were out for a drive in the same area when he noticed the exact same tracks on a muddy hill his truck had trouble getting up over. He figured the locations of the first and second sightings were within 100 metres of each other.
This time, there were no human prints anywhere to be seen and the tracks went across the road and into the woods. He took a photo of one impression in the dirt which showed the print was nearly the size of his own hand.
"I knew there were reports of wolves being spotted (in Newfoundland), so I had to take a picture of it," he said. "The claws were massive and the print was definitely from a very big dog."
Comparing it to wolf paw prints on the Internet, Sweetland believes this could be further evidence that wolves have returned to the island.
"This was way in the backcountry," said Sweetland. "It can't be someone's dog."
Wolves typically travel in packs. Sweetland saw only one set of paw prints, so it seemed like this animal may have been solitary.
"I'm not concerned because I'm always carrying something to protect myself," he said. "If there had been more than one set of tracks, that's when I would start getting concerned."
Sweetland showed the photo to his father Barry Sweetland, who is an avid outdoor guide, and to family friend Keith Piercey. They both thought the image was interesting and Piercey sent the photo off to wildlife officials on July 27.
No one has gotten back to either Piercey or Sweetland yet.
The Western Star also asked the Department of Environment and Conservation about the paw print and if anyone has identified it, but no one was available to discuss it as of press time Tuesday.
The Newfoundland wolf has been extinct for around 80 or more years. Analysis has shown the wolf killed in Bonavista by hunter Joe Fleming in March of this year was from Labrador.
The animal seen on the video footage from Terra Nova, which was caught by a motion sensitive camera set up by Parks Canada, has not been positively identified. Experts have said it is difficult to accurately gauge the scale of the animal's size from the video which was posted on YouTube on July 17.
There is also inbreeding between wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs.
The smaller Eastern coyote, which has also found its way to Newfoundland, seems to have a growing population but the presence of the larger wolves could serve to curtail coyote numbers.
"This could be a way to get rid of the coyote population, but then we'd have a bigger animal to worry about," Sweetland said of the possibility of wolves establishing a population in Newfoundland.