The New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources is looking into the possibility that a wolf shot in the province last month might have been held in captivity, maybe even as a pet.
"We are not sure on that 100 per cent for sure, but we have DNR staff working on that," Minister Bruce Northrup told CBC News on Wednesday.
Wolves were believed to have been hunted to extinction in the province.
The last time a wolf was reported killed in the province was in 1876, provincial wildlife officials have said.
"There are still a lot questions out there that have to be answered," said Northrup.
DNR is also investigating the possibility the wolf could have wandered into the province from northern Quebec, he said.
"We have DNR staff out in the field where the wolf was shot, questioning the people that live in that area, so we will know a lot more down the road."
May have come from Quebec
Don McAlpine, a zoologist at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John, will also be conducting further tests on the wolf.
As it stands, he believes it likely travelled from Quebec.
Wolf populations have been increasing there, as well as Ontario and the northeastern United States in recent years, he said.
"This animal is a male, we suspect probably a younger animal, so it's not unusual that we would find an individual like this move into perhaps new territory," said McAlpine.
If that’s the case, the young animal overcame many obstacles, he said.
"There’s a lot of highways, there’s a lot of human development there. Of course wolves, much more so than coyotes, avoid people. So it really had quite the gauntlet to get through that barrier."
Jacques Mallet, who shot the animal at Saint-Simon, near Caraquet on April 6, told CBC News he’s surprised and saddened by the confirmation that it was a wolf.
"Because it's a wolf and maybe the only one, or the first one for sure. And I was hunting coyote and that animal looked like coyote to me and finally it's a wolf so, it's sad."
If wolves are making a comeback, Mallet believes they should be protected.
The wolf turned up 15 minutes after he used his electronic coyote call, he said.
But in hindsight, there were a couple of things that stood out, said Mallet, who’s been hunting for 35 years.
The animal was about three times larger than a typical coyote, and it was alone.
"I only saw one big track. So that's unusual. Wolves hunt in packs usually."
Mallet said he hopes to see the wolf mounted and put on display at the New Brunswick Museum.