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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors


A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Recalling big bad ‘wolves’

February 06, 2008 at 11:23 AM

Hysteria about the possible sighting of a wolf in Moline has me chuckling. First of all, without ever seeing the canine in question, I doubt we’re talking about a wolf. Not that it’s impossible. Hey, a wolf should be showing up soon, given what’s happened the past few years. But a wolf hanging out near a city? That sounds an awful lot like a coyote or a wolf-dog hybrid.

That said, I still remember fielding a call back in 2003 about a hunter who shot a supposed wolf. For a second I considered ignoring the call (based largely on a silly wolf chase in Decatur some years earlier). Fortunately I took the time to make those calls. Because that led me to Randy Worker, who did indeed shoot the first timber wolf confirmed in Illinois since at least the early 1900s and possibly longer.

So I’m glad the Quad Cities press has not given up on their wolf story. Still, if it came to a bet as to which canine was a “wild wolf,” I’d put my money on the recent sighting reported in the Chicago Sun-Times by Dale Bowman. That wolf-like canine was spotted along the Illinois River in a fairly wild setting. Read more about all this by clicking here on Prairie State Outdoors (if you haven’t already).

And for those who are interested in stories of wolves, bookmark The Timber Wolf Information Network to get some facts and daily updates on wolf-related stories from across the U.S. They’ve got an archive that includes a huge number of wolf stories, even mine about Randy Worker from back in 2003.

Now about that Decatur story. I’ve not yet found a link to the stories I wrote, so this is all based on hazy recollection. Anyway, about 14 years ago, people in a western part of Decatur kept claiming they had seen a wolf roaming near Garman Park, located in a wooded part of town. But the canine in question not only approached people, it also approached small children. That got people understandably worried. So a police officer wound up shooting the canine with a rifle from the top of a pavilion in the park (while a baseball game was being played, if I recall correctly). It was surreal. But it also turned out the canine was a wolf-dog hybrid that had been released by somebody in the area who no longer wanted to feed the animal.

And since the Worker story, I’ve tracked down two wolf-dog hybrids. In both cases, people were convinced they had wolves. And just last fall, my buddy Flathead shot video of a wolf-like canine while he was hunting deer along the Illinois River. We posted that video on PSO and you can watch it yourself by clicking here. Now imagine instead of a long video all you had was a quick glimpse of this animal. I’d say wolf, even though biologists have all stated they think this is some form of a hybrid: dog-coyote, wolf-dog or something.

That’s why it’s always healthy to approach these wolf reports with a healthy dose of informed skepticism.

Now mountain lions, well that’s another story ....


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