North Carolina toddler attacked by Coyote Hybrid; Alaska Fish & Game charge Wolf Hybrid buyers; Connecticut scientists link invasive barberry to Lyme Disease; and a West Nile Virus report from Pennsylvania.

Red wolf, a coyote--wolf hybrid. Photo by Dave Pape. Wikimedia Commons.

North Carolina 06/20/11 by Ryan Sullivan – Trinity – A family is warning their neighbors after a toddler was attacked and dragged from a trampoline by a coyote hybrid in Randolph County. The coyote allegedly attacked 3-year-old Maggie Reed while she was jumping on a trampoline with her 6-year-old sister Sierra late Wednesday evening in the Tabernackle community near Trinity. The 100-lb animal, which animal control officials dubbed a “coyote hybrid,” grabbed Maggie by her shirt and began dragging her away. “(The coyote) tried to get (Maggie) behind my mom’s car and tried to drag her in the woods,” Sierra said. Sierra reacted by yelling for her mother, Sabrina Reed. “That’s a terrifying feeling when you walk out of the house and see your baby in the mouth of a monster,” Reed said. The mother said she immediately jumped on the coyote and did what she could to free Maggie from its grasp with her bare hands. “I don’t know what I was thinking, but I knew this — I had to get to my baby or she wouldn’t be here,” she said. Reed was able to pry Maggie away from the coyote, but the beast refused to leave their home. Reed then called 911. . . . More than thirty minutes after the attack began, a neighbor armed with a shotgun arrived to assist. Reed took the firearm and shot the coyote once in its neck. Her neighbor then shot the animal a second time in the head. . . . . Maggie suffered only a bruise due to being dragged from the trampoline. The mother suffered a stubbed toe as a result of the scuffle. The animal’s carcass was sent to Raleigh for rabies tests, although the results came back “inconclusive” because the animal’s brain had been too damaged from the gunshot wounds for clear results, officials said. Health and animal officials are treating the case as if the rabies test came back positive.
(For complete article go to,0,3125115.story )

Alaska 06/18/11 by Andrew Wellner – Two of three people named in a warrant to search Wolf Country USA as possible purchasers of wolf hybrids from the Palmer-area business have been hit with criminal charges. Renee M. Ciccarelli, 25, of Wasilla and Anchorage resident Calvin Hubbard, 57, were both charged with possessing a wolf hybrid without a permit, according to Alaska State Trooper press releases. Ciccarelli was charged Friday, Hubbard on Monday. Wolf Country USA was raided on Thursday. A third person, Nicholas Ciccarrelli, 28, of Wasilla, was hit with an identical charge also on Friday. Hubbard’s first court appearance is set for July 22. The Ciccarellis will first appear July 28. According to an affidavit Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Katrina Malm filed in order to get the warrant to search the 25-year-old tourist attraction just outside of Palmer on the Glenn Highway, both Renee Ciccarelli and Hubbard appeared on troopers’ radar as they were closing in on Wolf Country.

Wildlife trooper Sgt. Doug Massie first talked to Hubbard on Jan. 11 when, three days prior, the animal in question bit a person. Hubbard told Massie he bought the animal at Wolf Country. The price, Massie later learned, was $500, though the co-owner of the attraction, Werner Schuster, allegedly told the animal’s co-owner, Janice Wasillie, that he usually sells them for $800. Ciccarelli had his run-in with troopers a month later when Massie interviewed a woman about her 6-year-old son being attacked by a wolf-like animal in August 2009. Troopers initially classified it as a dog bite. Attorneys in a resulting lawsuit sent away for DNA testing. The tests showed the animal was part wolf. The bitten boy’s father told Massie he assumed the animal came from Wolf Country. Nicholas Ciccarelli does not appear in the search warrant affidavit.

A third owner of a wolf hybrid that allegedly came from Wolf Country, Ronald T. West, has already been charged and convicted of illegally possessing a wolf hybrid after his animal got loose and killed a neighbor’s dog. West received a one-year suspended imposition sentence, meaning he doesn’t have to serve any time and may not even have a conviction on his record so long as he does well on parole. He had to pay $50 plus the cost of detaining the animal and shipping it to a wolf facility.

As for Schuster and his wife, Gail Schuster, troopers have not filed any charges against them for owning wolves or wolf hybrids. Thursday’s action was just to get DNA samples from the animals, which troopers and Alaska Department of Fish and Game tranquilized to complete the procedure. Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said that even though the animals may look like wolves, troopers have to be certain before they can proceed. Schuster has said he doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a pure wolf or a pure dog, for that matter. He said the gene pools have mixed so much that to call an animal a wolf and another a dog is an arbitrary distinction. All dogs and all wolves, in Schuster’s view, are wolf hybrids. Peters said at the time that although the possession of the animals without a permit has been illegal for years, the law has been unenforceable since DNA tests couldn’t distinguish well enough between wolves, wolf hybrids and dogs. A state Fish and Game spokeswoman said the Schuster case could set a precedent in Alaska for how the state will handle such cases.

National 06/20/11 by Judy Benson – Friday morning, off a shady wet trail in the town that gave Lyme disease its name, a man with a 30-pound propane tank and a flame-throwing wand showed a group from local land trusts how a bit of fire in the right spots can make their woodlands healthier for both native wildlife and humans.

Dr. Jeff Ward

“You want to heat it until the stem glows. Then it’s dead,” said Jeffrey Ward, chief scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s Department of Forestry and Agriculture. He talked over the loud gush of the propane torch as he wielded it on a patch of thorny green branches springing from the forest floor in the Eno Preserve, owned by the Lyme Land Conservation Trust.

Ward’s demonstration, for representatives of Lyme, Salem and East Haddam land trusts and the Nature Conservancy, is the outreach part of five years of research he and fellow experiment station scientist Scott Williams have been doing on the relationship between Japanese barberry, ticks that carry Lyme disease and deer overpopulation.

Japanese Barberry

A highly invasive plant that forms dense canopies in forests – particularly those with high deer populations that eat most every other plant – Japanese barberry also creates moist, cool shelters that harbor ticks that carry the Lyme disease bacteria, Ward’s and Williams’ research has shown. Hot, dry conditions suppress tick populations.

Japanese Barberry infestation.

At 28 study areas, including a parcel along Lord’s Cove in Old Lyme, the two have been studying various aspects of the triangular relationship between ticks, deer and barberry, and spreading their message to land conservation organizations about the best methods for ridding forests of barberry. Deer serve as hosts for adult ticks, while the barberry functions as a nursery for ticks in their juvenile stages. (For complete article go to )

Pennsylvania 06/20/11 by John Latimer – A mosquito sample collected in North Londonderry Township last week has tested positive for West Nile virus. The sample was collected in an area of the township just south of Palmyra on Thursday, said Phil Hall, Lebanon County’s West Nile virus control officer. It is the first positive sample to be recorded in the county this year. Hall said Monday that he had previously scheduled a spraying of the area on Tuesday evening, and it will go forward as planned. Traps will also be placed in the area to collect other samples to determine the extent of the virus’ presence. Lebanon becomes the sixth county in the state where West Nile virus has been detected this year. No humans have been recorded with the disease. Last year, there were 41 positive mosquito samples and one avian sample collected in Lebanon County, according to state records, which can be found at The disease has not been found in any county residents in the past three years.


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