Phantom Wolf

Mystery DoG-like Entity of the midwestern and eastern United States.

Variant names: Booger dog, Phantom dog, Witchie wolf (Ojibwa/Algonquian).

Physical description: Large dog of varying descriptions.

Behavior: Held responsible for livestock depredations.

Distribution: Michigan; Ohio; Illinois; Missouri; Louisiana; Pennsylvania; Connecticut; Maine.

Significant sightings: J. Gordon was crossing a mountain stream on horseback one night near Bunker, Missouri, when a huge dog came walking along the stream and jumped up on his horse. He fired two rounds into it and hit it with his pistol, apparently to no effect, since it was a phantom.

On July 27, 1994, Jerry D. Coleman and four others watched a large, wild dog, 3 feet high at the shoulder and with a long, thin tail, in a field on the north side of Elgin, Illinois. Possible explanations: (1) The Gray wolf (Canis lupus) usually hunts in packs for large prey. Its average length is 5 feet from head to tail, and its coat varies from white to black, with many shades in between. Wolf predation on cattle and sheep in the United States is negligible. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gives the following numbers for verified wolf kills from 1991 through May 1998 in Minnesota, a state with an estimated wolf population of 2,400: 585 cattle, 200 sheep, 10 horses, 3 pigs, 5 goats, 4,889 turkeys, 30 chickens, 7 geese, 2 ducks, and 84 dogs. Pawprints are not reliable indicators of a wolf kill, since wolf prints can be indistinguishable from those of large dogs. Wolf predation is likely if there are bites and large, jagged wounds on flanks, hindquarters, and upper shoulders of large livestock or bites on the head, neck, throat, back, and hindquarters of sheep and calves. Wolves will also eat most of a carcass unless they are interrupted.

(2) The Coyote (Canis latrans), the most widely distributed North American canid, differs from the gray wolf in its much smaller overall size (4 feet from head to tail), feet, and head. The upper parts are grizzled buff and grayish, overlaid with black; its muzzle, ears, and the outer sides of its legs are yellowish buff; and its tail has a black tip. It most often hunts alone or in pairs, usually at night because of human persecution. Its reputation as a major killer of domestic livestock is, to a large extent, unwarranted, since it feeds primarily on rabbits and rodents. Injured coyotes are more likely to prey on poultry, sheep, and goats.

(3) Feral Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) can easily be mistaken for wolves and coyotes.

(4) A hybrid gray wolf x domestic dog (usually a German shepherd, malamute, or husky). These hybrids are often very territorial, have a strong pack instinct, and prefer a roaming life.

(5) A male coyote x female domestic dog hybrid. Coydogs become more aggressive when they mature but are generally timid toward humans. They show clear signs of both parents, are fertile, and can bark like domestic dogs. Though rare, they do tend to be more aggressive toward livestock than wild coyotes.

Sources: Vance Randolph, Ozark Ghost Stories (Girard, Kans.: Haldeman-Julius, 1944), p. 14; Vance Randolph, Ozark Superstitions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1947), pp. 224-226; Paul F. Serpas, "Noisy Phantom of the Louisiana Swamp," Fate 9 (October 1956): 73-75; Phillip M. Perry, "Death Follows the Black Dog of the Hanging Hills," Fate 27 (February 1974): 43-48; Loren Coleman, "Mystery Animals Invade Illinois,


Again," Strange Magazine, no. 14 (Fall 1994): 32; David A. Kulczyk, "The Witchie Wolves of Omer Plains," Strange Magazine, no. 15 (Spring 1995): 25; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "Questions and Answers about Gray Wolves in North America," http://midwest.

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