Wolfy wasn’t faking it.
The former pet, captured last week at a Spokane Valley home, almost certainly is a purebred gray wolf, according to federal wildlife officials who inspected the animal Monday.
The animal’s feet, ears, tail and facial proportions match those of a true wolf, the experts concluded. His mannerisms also match.
Wolfy is not eligible for a return to the wild because he’s too domesticated, but he still may get a second chance and avoid euthanasia. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials have given his guardian - the Spokane County animal shelter in the Valley - permission to transport him to a wildlife sanctuary if it can find one that will take him.
Wolf Haven International in Thurston County, Wash., is one possibility, said shelter director Nancy Sattin. A former employee of the wolf sanctuary joined a federal biologist and special agent in Monday’s inspection of the wolf. The ex-employee will talk to Wolf Haven’s board of directors this week to determine if the sanctuary can provide the animal with a home.
In the meantime, Wolfy will remain in a cage at the shelter. He avoids human contact and shakes violently when people come near.
Federal officials will not order DNA tests of the animal to determine if it has even a small amount of non-wolf blood. Such tests are expensive and not always conclusive.
Spokane County animal control officers captured Wolfy last Tuesday after Annette Verduchi claimed he was a stray threatening her and her 3-month-old daughter. The woman later admitted she owned the animal, a wolf that had become increasingly aggressive and impossible to control.
Verduchi and her fiance, Bud Vanderhoof, had purchased the animal when it was a young pup through a classified ad in the Spokane area. The couple believed the pup’s parents came from the Yellowstone National Park area.
County animal shelter officials will spend the next few weeks searching for an appropriate home for the wolf. They’ve created a fund to collect money for its future care, which could cost about $10,000 over his 10- to 15-year predicted lifespan in a sanctuary. They hope this will improve his chances of being accepted at a good facility.
Although it’s not illegal to own a wolf or a wolf-hybrid, the couple will be charged $60 by the shelter for the cost of picking up their unwanted pet.
Wolfy still could face euthanasia if an appropriate home isn’t found, Sattin said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: HOW TO HELP Donations to the Wolf Fund can be dropped off or mailed to the Spokane County animal shelter at 2521 N. Flora Road, Spokane 99216.