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  • Florida Black Wolf: Extinct or Alive?
  • Kelly Quinn
  • Animal PlanetBlack WolfFloridawolfwolves

Florida Black Wolf: Extinct or Alive?

Florida Black Wolf: Extinct or Alive?

Florida Black Wolf

Hi There! Thanks for popping in to learn more about the Florida Black Wolf! Here are some of the questions that I will be answering about this awesome animal.
  • What is the Florida Black Wolf? Is it a unique species of Wolf? A subspecies of the Grey Wolf? Or is it a Coyote?
  • Why did it go extinct?
  • Can wolves be reintroduced to the Southeast?

There has been much debate among biologists on the taxonomy of the Florida Black Wolf but one thing is for sure... it existed, and lived throughout the lower southeast of the United States until 1908, which is when it was declared extinct.

Florida Black Wolf Painting
"Eve of the Wolf" 16" x 24" Digital Painting on Canvas - Kelly Quinn

Recounts of this animal are few, but the handful that still exists today point to a small framed, light-footed Wolf with large ears and a jet black coat, save for a patch or two of white on their chest and muzzle. They hunted in small packs like their northern cousins and typically were found in Pine Forests and prairie habitats, most likely hunting deer, and small game.

 

Florida Black Wolf AudubonCanis Lupus (American black wolf), 1845 - John James Audubon

 

John James Audubon was one of the two most credible resources that secure the existence of this species. During his trek through southern states in the 1840s, he painted a watercolor piece of a Florida Black Wolf galloping across a prairie hunting Bison (and yes, Bison lived in Florida way back when!). Along with the Florida Black Wolf, a Red Wolf was also discovered on this trip, which started the debate on whether the Black Wolf was a separate species from the Red Wolf or the same with a color variation.

 

Florida Black Wolf photographCanis Lupus (American black wolf) - Photograph - Unknown

In 1957, it was discovered by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (A ridiculously long name meaning a group of people who name species) that the Florida black wolf, along with the red wolf and Gregory's wolf was actually not related to any known species or at least the relation could not be proven. This invalidated all previous proclamations of the Florida Black Wolf being a species of Coyote or a subspecies of Red Wolf.

 

Florida Black Wolf Pack"Eve of the Wolf" - Close up - Digital Painting on Canvas - Kelly Quinn

The disappearance of the Florida Black Wolf is no surprise when you look at the perceptions people viewed wolves with. They were seen as dangerous animals who would hunt livestock, compete with settlers for wild game, and would attack the unsuspecting traveler. Sadly, what people of the time didn’t see was the curious personality, courageous spirit, and family oriented unit wolves represented.

 

Florida Black Wolf Eyes"Eve of the Wolf" - Close up - Digital Painting on Canvas - Kelly Quinn

They evolved over thousands of years to be the perfect predator and were persecuted for what came naturally. In the end, they were outcompeted by humans. People used more resources, leveled forests for growth and cattle, hunted game to feed growing populations, and actively hunted all predators, the Florida Black Wolf included alongside the Florida Panther and Florida Black Bear.

Thanks to the ESA (Endangered Species Act) Today, we still have a small population of panthers in the southern half of Florida (which still struggle daily for more space to support a growing population) and a growing bear population throughout the state. However, this act came too late for both the Red Wolf and Black Wolf in Florida. There are no longer any wild wolves in Florida but there is a program to start introducing the remaining hybrids of the old Red Wolf populations. This in itself is steeped in controversy because of their known mixed genetics with Coyotes.

Red Wolf - Lowry Park ZooRed Wolf (Canis lupus rufus) - Photograph from Lowry Park Zoo - Unknown

For the Red Wolf, maybe one day it will step foot in the pine forests of Florida again, but our Black Wolf is gone forever. Instead of mourning this animal though, we should see this as an opportunity to educate. Why are wolves important to an ecosystem? Why do they need to exist? And how would Florida benefit from the reintroduction of wolves as well as the connection of a Florida corridor throughout the state that would allow for panther populations to expand? How can ecotourism become Florida's largest economy?

There is much to cover, but if we, the people of this beautiful state, can forge a connection with our wild selves and understand why we need these apex predators in the wilds of Florida, then maybe one day we will deserve to hear the howls of wolves in the summer night.

What do you think?

  • Should wolves be reintroduced back into Florida?
  • How do you think wolves would affect the economy? (positive/negative)
  • Would there be negative impacts on people?

These are all relevant questions that we need to ask ourselves if we want to live a balanced life with nature, so your opinion is much appreciated! Thank you for reading, Sending much love your way!

-Kelly Quinn

  • Kelly Quinn
  • Animal PlanetBlack WolfFloridawolfwolves

Comments on this post (32)

  • Feb 21, 2020

    I’m an avid hunter. I grew up in southern Tennessee and northern Alabama hunting all species. I moved to the Florida panhandle in 2012. I had a lot of wild game diversity in my area at first and I enjoyed my encounters. In the last several years I’ve seen my usual encounters dwindle significantly. I’m outside a lot. I don’t see or hear the raccoons scurrying around. I don’t see opposums anymore. Deer were scarce as it was. I had a female red and male gray fox that used to visit each night. I haven’t seen any of these creatures in the last two years now. It really is disturbing to see our native wildlife smothered out. We build homes and shopping centers on marshes,swamp, and any land available. It saddens me to know that my kids nor grandchildren will ever be able to enjoy the great outdoors like I was lucky enough to grow up with. People need to start thinking about something other than themselves. We’ve nearly killed of all the native wild animals here and in many other places as well. I’m afraid that it’s a lost cause now, just like so many of our lost ways..

    — Michael Archer

  • Feb 21, 2020

    Release them in the Big Cypress, maybe they will eat all those damn pythons! Yes the hunters would shoot them, just look up Uno the panther. I know for a fact Ron Bergeron and Billie from Billie Swamp Safari both shot a panther. You can Google that. See y’all out in the swamp , God bless you.

    — Jesse Gladesman

  • Dec 02, 2019

    The Audubon drawing of the American Black Wolf looks exactly like what I clearly saw dart rapidly in front of my car in rural Martin County, Florida last night around 11:30 pm. I had just turned my brights on and got a good look. It was about 35 lbs, was a solid. very dark greyish black, and had a bushy tail. I was driving around 50 mph and it managed to shoot across the road in front of me without getting hit. Maybe a coyote can have that coloring? It sure looked like the Audubon rendering!

    — Barbara Hayes

  • Feb 21, 2020

    Myself and my buddy, who is a wildlife conservation biologist, were driving into Santa Rosa Beach, FL about 2 weeks ago, around noon, and we saw one between Miramar beach and Santa Rosa beach, maybe 1/2 to 1 mile past the Grand Boulevard shopping center on the South side of US Hwy 98.

    Between topsail reserve and Point Washington, there’s a lot of ground. I have lived in SRB on and off for 10 years, and have walked the trails without seeing one, but when I saw it, I pointed it out to him, and he said, “that’s not good, it shouldn’t be out this time of day, near the road like that.” It was clearly not a shepherd dog, like a malinois, or a German. It was way to huge to be a coyote, or a fox, and it didn’t trot like a dog. Ask anyone Of the locals, deer are common along the highway, and hunting is pretty regulated. The state park is managed really really well with controlled burns, but, the groves and thickets get extremely thick, with plenty of residential, but not along of industrial logging of the pine forest. Black bears are really common around there, so it’s not inconceivable for a wolf population either.

    Has anyone else seen one on the far west side of point Washington?

    Let me know if you need to know more details. We both know what we saw, him more credible than me. He thought it was a sick old alpha, or an omega, maybe even a young male searching for a new range…

    Between point Washington, and topsail. Too large for a coyote, or a fox, no familiar markings to a shepherd/ wolfhund… almost trotted, maybe there was a deer in the embankment we couldn’t see from the road.

    Hope to hear of more sightings in this area.

    — Ryan Simmons

  • Feb 21, 2020

    I live in the Melbourne Fl. area, on my early morning walk near a wooded are I believe I startled one . It took off full speed. It was all black with a bushy tail, the size of a German Shepard. I am sure it was not a coyote as I grew up on a northern Midwest farm and used to shot coyotes for bounty.

    — Bruce Schmidt

  • Feb 21, 2020

    I think I have one on my property. I set a trail camera out behind my house and I have several pictures of it both day and night.

    — Michael Ward

  • Feb 21, 2020

    There are known black coyotes. They are not common but they occur.
    Reading all the florida wolf sightings is truly sad for me since they went extinct at the very beginning of the 20th century. It is very, very reminiscent of the multiple Tasmanian tiger sightings which keep popping up down under whereas nobody yet has found a road killed thyacline or caught an unequivocal picture of one on a camera trap. Its a lot of wishful thinking This is why we need to support by any means possible the reintroduction of the remaining red wolf captive population (all that is left of our southeastern wolves) into suitable habitat. Note that the Fish and Wildlife Service is tasked with this responsibility but has done absolutely nothing for over a year hoping that the few remaining in North carolina will just die off. Write to Leopoldo Miranda the head of the southeastern division of FWS (don’t expect an answer I never got one) and visit the facebook site of the red wolf coalition

    — Richard Lind

  • Nov 06, 2019

    I know this sounds crazy, but I think I saw one cross in front of my vehicle on a farm in Florida just last week – Loxahatchee, FL. Black as night fur with bushy tail and quick gait. It wasn’t a boar with the tail that I witnessed and it crossed the road quickly into the bush. Head like a coyote only a bit bigger. Too big to be a fox.

    — I'm not crazy

  • Nov 06, 2019

    I had two walk in front of me about a week ago at night. I was not sure what they were. I had never seen one. Then about a week later about 5 miles away from home at night I plainly seen one by the car lights on the edge of the road. I looked up on the iPad what I saw. A black wolf with light gray, white hair. kite, Georgia

    — Jim Harrison

  • Nov 06, 2019

    I had two walk in front of me about a week ago at night. I was not sure what they were. I had never seen one. Then about a week later about 5 miles away from home at night I plainly seen one by the car lights on the edge of the road. I looked up on the iPad what I saw. A black wolf with light gray, white hair. kite, Georgia

    — Jim Harrison

  • Nov 06, 2019

    I had two walk in front of me about a week ago at night. I was not sure what they were. I had never seen one. Then about a week later about 5 miles away from home at night I plainly seen one by the car lights on the edge of the road. I looked up on the iPad what I saw. A black wolf with light gray, white hair.

    — Jim Harrison

  • Nov 06, 2019

    I live in Palm Coast which is in Flagler County, Florida. Last year, I was walking on a trail with my husband and daughter. We saw a black dog lying in a field with its head up. He was lying in a patch of sunlight. He had pointed ears and was completely black. I started to text different animal rescues in the area because I thought that it was possibly a lost dog or a stray. When the dog noticed us, he got up and slowly walked along the wood line and then into the woods. His tail was bushy at the ends. I’ve actually never seen a dog like this one. He looked almost like a black German Shepherd. By the time animal rescue got there, he was gone. They told me that they would set a trap for him. They told me that they have received a few calls about a black dog in that area that seems feral. The woman also mentioned that someone thought it might be a wolf. I also thought that it looked like a wolf but as I was googling “black wolf in Florida” I noticed articles stating that they were extinct long ago. The land where the dog has been spotted is for sale and I’m worried that if it is a black wolf, he might be killed if he is pushed out of the wooded area because the rest of the area is becoming very built up and populated. I can give an exact location and pictures if anyone is interested.

    — Jacqueline Nandalall

  • Nov 06, 2019

    The black and white photo looks more like a coyote than a wolf. Possibly a hybrid? I’ve seen large coyotes in New Jersey that are much bigger than their southwestern relatives. These may possibly be coy-wolf or coy-dog cross breeds. Perhaps the Florida canines are of this origin.

    — William VanDerVeen

  • Nov 06, 2019

    The black and white photo looks more like a coyote than a wolf. Possibly a hybrid? I’ve seen large coyotes in New Jersey that are much bigger than their southwestern relatives. These may possibly be coy-wolf or coy-dog cross breeds. Perhaps the Florida canines are of this origin.

    — William VanDerVeen

  • Nov 06, 2019

    Forrest I just watched your show on the black Wolf of Florida. I also noticed you were looking for a Florida black panther. You claim no one has seen one. I here to tell you that your show was looking in the wrong part of Florida. About a year ago my son was returning from his girlfriends house in Tampa as he merged onto 75 east across alligator alley near Naples . It was at daybreak the sun was just coming up a large pig darted In front of car he slammed on the brakes . Within 5 seconds a large black panther was in pursuit of the pig 15 feet in front of my sons stationary car. My son is an animal nut and he knows what he saw . So if you want to find one you need to make your next expedition down a little father south . If you contact me I’ll give you my sons number number and he can give you more details about the sighting.

    — Barry Derocher

  • Nov 06, 2019

    I live near Brownwood Texas. We have a lake here which had black panthers. They have been there since I was a little girl. Place called Byrd Store. The ranchers are selling out their land for development and this is making them move out. Several people have posted on FB seeing them their way.

    — Linda Thomas

  • Nov 06, 2019

    March 28, 2019
    Valencia Shores. Lake Worth, Florida
    Friend and I saw a large grey/black wolf looking
    Run from one side of street across to other disappearing into heavy bushes.
    It occurred at 7:10am as we drove to our
    Community private tennis courts..
    It ran in front of our car very fast…..
    Not anything like we have seen before..
    Was too large for a Fox…I can only guess
    It would have a height up to an average mans
    Hip…appeared a wild animal…maybe not extinct?

    — Ed

  • Nov 06, 2019

    Is there a petition started to reintroduce the red wolf in Florida?

    — James little

  • Nov 06, 2019

    I may have one on video with my Ring. I’d like to send and see if it is or not. He keeps coming back. I have about 5 videos. He runs extremely fast.

    — Lorena Upton

  • Nov 06, 2019

    I saw one about 4 years ago on hole #12 at Regatta Bay golf course in Destin, Florida.

    — Daniel McClain

  • Nov 06, 2019

    I have some interesting pictures
    I would love to share with you

    — Tony Brown

  • Nov 06, 2019

    Yes The Wolf would actually bring back more than just itself. It would bring back everything. Just look at where it’s already been introduced back into even the rivers came back!!

    — Stephanie Lopez

  • Nov 06, 2019

    Would like to send you a picture of what I thought was a black wolf…maybe black coyote in jay yard 2 times in the last month.

    — Jackie landry

  • Nov 06, 2019

    I’m currently researching a paper on climate change. Florida is the perfect place for the work because of it’s elevation and geography and many additional features.
    Florida has been submerged around 30 times in the previous two million years. Evidence of horses, camels giant sloths and other unlikely animals have been found preserved in the state’s fossil record.

    Don’t be too concerned. Some day the black wolf will roam here again.

    — Felix Bochenick

  • Nov 06, 2019

    Yes.Absolutely. bring the wolf back…..we must learn to live in balance with other species….and for those economy minded PLENTY of people PAY to see animals every day….be it zoos….whale watching….dolphins…..African safari…..what have you…..hunters don’t get to rule the roost…..PLENTY of nature lovers want to observe…..share and share alike…..

    — Diane L.

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