As Adam Kavanagh was making his way to a “vehicle versus timberwolf” call early Tuesday, he was in disbelief.
Kavanagh, a deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said he expected to see a coyote or even a German shepherd.
“I wasn’t expecting a wolf,” said Kavanagh. “But lo and behold, we showed up and there it was. It was something I had never seen before.”
The accident occurred shortly before 7:30 a.m. east of Rose City on Douglas County Road 14 near Hemlock Road on Jan. 9. After hitting the animal, the driver, Burt Lorentz of Eagle Bend, called authorities. According to the sheriff’s office, there was minimal damage to the vehicle, but the animal was dead.
“It’s very unusual to see a dead wolf, let alone a live wolf in this area,” Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said. “Our office hasn’t had a call like this before. It is definitely unusual for Douglas County.”
Kavanagh said after talking with Lorentz and making sure he was OK, the deputies called the Department of Natural Resources and Mitch Lawler, a DNR conservation officer, came to pick up the wolf.
Kavanagh, along with another deputy, Kaylen Berle, handled the call.
Because it was so rare and because they wanted to document the size of the animal, which Kavanagh estimated to weigh more than 100 pounds, the two deputies took photos of the animal and with the animal. Kavanagh said the wolf was a male. Male wolves can weigh anywhere from 70 to 180 pounds.
The photos, one of which shows Kavanagh holding up the wolf and the other shows Berle kneeling down by the animal holding its head up, ended up on Facebook and caused some controversy because the deputies were smiling.
Wolbersen said the photos were taken to document the incident and also show the size of the animal.
“They weren’t taken out of disrespect for the animal,” he said. “They were not trophy photos, but were photos to document the event and the unusualness of it.”
Kavanagh said he was “smiling” because he was having a picture taken.
“I wasn’t smiling because I was happy the animal was dead. It was quite the opposite, it was a sad situation,” Kavanagh said. “Wolves are awesome creatures. But it was cool to get that close to one. I’ve never seen anything like that in my career and probably never will again.”
In an Oct. 4 Echo Press article, “Are wolves in the area?” some hunters within Douglas and Otter Tail counties have talked about an increase in wolf sightings for a few years.
Alexandria and areas to the north such as Parkers Prairie and Fergus Falls are not within the current borders of what is considered wolf range in Minnesota. However, the last time those borders were examined was the winter of 2012-2013.
In an interview, DNR wolf research scientist John Erb said it would not surprise him if wolves, once an endangered species, have been sighted in an area like this outside of their established range farther north. He pointed to several detections of wolves about 28 miles north of Alexandria and three wolves that were reported killed in that general area in 2012 during the open season on wolves.