In fall 2006, photographer Gene Belanger of Hornepayne, north of Lake Superior, came across and photographed a strange looking dog in the woods east of town. He had never seen anything like it.
Belanger’s photos were sent off to the Ministry of Natural Resources. An email came back two days later from the Senior Scientist with the Manitoba Conservation Wildlife and Ecosystem Protection Branch with a positive identification. ” Looks like wolf with sarcoptic mange ” was the reply. ” Never seen one with this much hair loss ” was his next comment.
The family of wolves had been surviving on remnants of bear carcass, but winter was fast approaching and, without their coats, they would not make it.
The Toronto Wildlife Centre was alerted, and its director, Nathalie Karvonen, made plans to capture and treat the wolves. A live capture of grey wolves and treatment for mange had never been attempted before.
In October, TWC received permission from MNR to proceed with the rescue. The first step in the plan was to find an experienced trapper, then TWC would capture any wolves in the area. The wolves would be assessed and treated, then the healthy ones would be released. Affected wolves would be transferred to a fenced compound being built by TWC volunteers in the Sudbury area for treatment and then release once they had recovered.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Thunder Bay sent a reporter to interview the rescuers. As luck would have it, they had caught their first wolf while the reporter was in town. He videotaped the proceedings and a segment was shown nationwide.
Two females were eventually captured, treated, and taken to the compound for rehabilitation, then released. The alpha female was equipped with a radio collar.
Unfortunately, no trace of the pups was ever found. It is doubtful that they survived the winter. However, it’s suspected that the rescued alpha female had a new litter of pups in the spring.
Mange is cause by tiny mites that attach themselves to an animal’s skin or fur. In sarcoptic mange, the female mites will dig under the animals fur and lay eggs there, and the animal will become very itchy.
Mange is most likely an important regulating factor of wolf and coyote populations. Cases of mange in wolf populations increase when wolf densities increase, and the number of surviving pups in a wolf population decreases as the number of wolves with mange increases. Wolves with mange often freeze to death because of the hair loss that occurs with a severe infestation of mites.
Sarcoptic mange has been used in the past by wildlife “managers” to control wolf populations. In 1909, wolves that were caught and infected with sarcoptic mange were released into Montana, in hopes that the disease would spread to and infect and kill other wolves
The story in photos at Gene Belanger’s website.