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State Environmental Conservation officers are interviewing residents of the Long Pond area of North Stonington and Ledyard about encounters with roaming canines that may be wolf-dog hybrids, and plan to seize the animals if they are found and place them in a secure facility while genetic tests are conducted.
Bill Hyatt, bureau chief of the Natural Resource Division of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said during a news conference Tuesday that these steps are being taken as part of the state's investigation after it received a report Sunday of a wolf-dog hybrid that was shot and killed after it and two other animals threatened a man on his property in Ledyard. A neighbor of the man sent tissue samples to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, which concluded that the animal is a "dog-wolf hybrid."
The man, who asked to remain anonymous, said the animals recently bit two horses and a local resident who was riding his bicycle. At least one other resident reported being threatened by the canines.
Wolf-dog hybrids are considered dangerous and are illegal in Connecticut.
"EnCon officers are out in the field, talking to everyone involved," Hyatt said.
The investigation is believed to be focusing on properties in the area of the Eastern Pequot reservation on Lantern Hill Road. A resident of the area is believed to own up to six canines resembling the animal that was shot and others seen roaming the area.
Patrick Crawford of Mystic said Tuesday that he saw the animals on Lantern Hill Road in January after hiking trails on Lantern Hill. He sent two photos to The Day showing two canines crossing the road.
"They were coming over the guardrail, not wearing collars or anything," he said. "I thought they were some sort of coyote-wolf hybrid."
He said he won't hike that area again "without carrying bear spray or something."
State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, said problems with dogs owned by a resident of that area were addressed more than a year ago by state and town animal control officers. The resident had more than a dozen animals "that we thought were white German shepherds."
"They were running wild as a pack, and they were breeding," she said. "We worked to get the size of the pack down and got them registered, and got an agreement that they would be managed."
The owner, whom she did not name, was restricted to keeping no more than six dogs.
"We tried to resolve this as a compromise," she said. "We got a solid agreement with him not to let them run freely. But if these are hybrids, game over. They're illegal."
She said she is concerned about the safety of residents and hikers in the area, and that residents have been fearful of speaking out.
"People shouldn't feel intimidated that if they speak out, there will be retribution," she said.
Urban said she hopes EnCon officers take swift action.
"I look forward to a resolution of this," she said.