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Illinois hunting and fishing
Photo by Ron Woll
Here's a photo of an animal Grayslake resident Ron Woll said he spotted in a field near his home. Woll said he thinks it may be a wolf, but officials said they can't confirm the sighting.

Man says he saw wolf in Grayslake

October 15, 2010 at 02:01 PM

By Megan Craig of

No one’s accusing Ron Woll of crying, “Wolf!”

But just because Woll thinks he saw one of the creatures near his Grayslake home doesn’t mean he really did, said a state wildlife biologist — who has chased more than a few wolf stories over the years in northern Illinois.

Woll said he spotted the animal near his home on the east side of Grayslake on Friday, and again on Monday.  Both times the animal was walking in a seven- or eight-acre field. Usually filled with alfalfa, the field had just been cut.

“As I was watching, an animal – a wolf I presumed – walked back and forth, back and forth, and he was leaving his mark several different places,” Woll said.

Woll looked more closely with binoculars, and said he knew then the animal wasn’t a coyote. Two days earlier, he said, a big coyote had walked right down the road in front of his house.

That coyote wasn’t as big as this animal, which he described as having, “rounded pointy ears, a sharp nose and steely eyes.”

He suspected the 700-acre forest preserve just north of his home may have been an inviting place for a wolf.

So he snapped a couple of photos and sent them to the Tribune.

But a wildlife biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said an actual wolf sighting would be extremely rare and difficult to confirm.

Tom Beissel, a regional wildlife biologist with IDNR, said that while calls about wolf sightings are common in northern Illinois, “they remain, for the most part, overwhelmingly undocumented.”

Beissel didn’t look at Woll’s pictures, saying they couldn’t tell him anything. The only way the IDNR can confirm a wolf sighting is by doing DNA analysis on a carcass, he said.

So unless someone claiming to see a wolf can provide tissue samples, “there’s really no way to say yes,” Beissel said.

Illinois isn’t home to any wolf populations, Beissel said. Once in a while, though, a stray wolf looking for a mate or a new home will straggle down from Wisconsin, where there’s an established wolf population.

A “small handful” of wolves have been confirmed in Illinois over the last dozen or so years, Beissel said.

Often, people will call with wolf sightings and the animals turn out to be coyotes or dogs or some sort of wolf-dog hybrid, he said.

Generally, coyotes are smaller than an average German shepherd. Wolves are “huge – they’re very large animals,” Beissel said, noting that they’re generally twice the size of a German shepherd.

Similarities in their shapes and coloring could still lead to people with little wildlife experience jumping to conclusions, he said.

“Then there’s the fact that these occurrences do actually happen,” he said. “It’s within the nature of the beast. We know we don’t have wolves in Illinois, but we know we will experience the occasional animal venturing into our borders. And every once in a while …”

So, could Woll really have seen a wolf?

“We can’t ever say never,” Beissel said.

For more information about identifying and dealing with wildlife – including how to report potentially interesting sightings – visit

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Beissel didn?t look at Woll?s pictures, saying they couldn?t tell him anything. The only way the IDNR can confirm a wolf sighting is by doing DNA analysis on a carcass, he said.
Wondering why he wouldn?t look at the pictures and give the guy his opinion, he is a wildlife biologist.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/16 at 09:01 AM

When I first moved into our Southern Illinois home, in the Shawnee National Forest, my neighbor would always tell us about the wolves she and her husband saw. 

At one time I lived in New Mexico and saw Coyotes all the time.  They were a lot smaller than the ones we see in Southern Illinois.

Once or twice I saw a coyote that looked like a wolf but smaller.  I was inquisitive and did some research.

This is what I found.  Most American biologist noticed the same difference between the western coyotes and the bigger eastern coyotes.  They believe that the eastern coyote may be a mix between a wolf and a coyote.  There is plenty of info (research) online to back up this observation.

If you’re interested, here’s a web site with more information (

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/16 at 04:26 PM

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