Wolf-dog captured in Pennypack Park

The wolf-Alaskan malamute hybrid is likely an illegal pet named Levi.
The wolf-Alaskan malamute hybrid is likely an illegal pet named Levi. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff)
Posted: July 05, 2012

The elusive wolf-dog of Pennypack Park has been caught, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has confirmed.

The early-morning capture was made with the help of hot dogs and foothold traps.

No thanks to foxes, which kept eating the bait.

The animal is believed to be a wolf-Alaskan malamute mix that was purchased as a pet in Florida and escaped when its owners were visiting Philadelphia in March.

It seemed docile enough, sometimes just lying in a clearing off the 8600 block of Algon Avenue, at the edge of the Northeast Philadelphia park. No attacks on people or pets were reported.

But more than a week ago, Game Commission officials began trying to catch the canine, using cagelike traps, nets, snare poles, sedative-laced hot dogs, and tranquilizer darts.

Late Monday, Jerry Czech of the Game Commission returned with a couple of other agents to try using foothold traps, which don't close all the way, he explained.

Hot dogs were used as bait, but at first all they attracted were foxes.

About 3:15 a.m., yelps led the searchers to the caught wolf-dog, which was briefly aggressive as it was being controlled and caged, Czech said.

Once in a large carrier and then its transport pen, the animal was quiet once again.

"He laid there, unfazed, did not growl, kick, spit, anything," Czech said.

The animal was taken to the Wolf Sanctuary near Lititz in Lancaster County, a 22-acre woodland refuge for wolves and illegally owned wolf hybrids.

Darin Tompkins of the Wolf Sanctuary said the facility has 11 enclosures, ranging in size from 1,000 square feet to 21/2 acres.

Wolf-dog hybrids are legal in Pennsylvania only with a special permit. As many as 300,000 are believed to exist around the nation, according to the Pennsylvania SPCA.

"It was a happy ending for everyone involved," Czech said.

He believes the animal was indeed a pet named Levi, given by a young Florida man named Kasey Lyons to his then-fiancee for Valentine's Day.

They were in Philadelphia the next month, when she let the animal off the leash in the park.

Lyons came forward after reading about the dog and scoured the park himself Thursday and Friday, getting close at times but never near enough.

He could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Lyons could be fined, since he transported and possessed a wolf hybrid without a permit, but his cooperation with officials, Czech said, will be taken into account.

Contact Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Robert Moran contributed to this article.

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