MOORHEAD — For nearly a month, Moorhead police got calls about a wolf-like creature roaming the city.
On Thursday, they were able to capture the mystery canine using a cage baited with what they describe as pungent dog food.
So now what?
The animal — which has been described as a husky, coyote, shepherd and even a timberwolf — is currently being fed and cared for at the Fargo-Moorhead Animal Hospital.
Many people have called both the hospital and police station volunteering to take the animal into their home and care for him, but Moorhead police Capt. Deric Swenson said it's not that simple.
Police say the owner is not being cooperative and won't provide any documents for the animal, so they're testing the dog's DNA to confirm if he really is a hybrid.
If he turns out to be a domestic dog, they can give him to an area animal rescue to eventually be re-homed. If it's an exotic animal, they need to find a special rescue somewhere in the country, since having a wild animal is illegal in Moorhead and standard animal shelters don't have vaccines for wolves.
Current city ordinance regulates both domesticated and exotic animals, but not a combination of the two. Swenson said police are consulting with the city attorney to figure out how they will interpret these laws if he's truly part dog, part wolf. The DNA test results are expected next week.
"This is a complicated situation, but we're trying to be as compassionate as we can with this animal and we're just taking it step by step," Swenson said.
Swenson described the animal as docile and said it was not aggressive. Police didn't get reports of anyone getting hurt by the animal while he was on the loose.
Swenson said police do not plan on euthanizing the animal, and as soon as they determine his species they will work to secure the right future for him.
"This is going to be costly for us, but again, it's the right thing to do and it's what we have to do," Swenson said.
Red River Zoo Executive Director Sally Jacobson said the zoo gets calls about exotic animals every month. Several dozen calls come in every year from people asking the zoo to take in exotic animals they don't want to care for anymore, ranging from large iguanas and tortoises to even bigger creatures.
"I've had calls on giraffes," Jacobson said. "It's quite intense across the country what people would have in their own backyards. It would be surprising to you."
Unfortunately, the zoo usually must turn down most of the requests since they don't have enough space or resources to care for all of the animals — though sometimes exceptions can be made, Jacobson said.
The international exotic pet trade is a big cause of species becoming endangered, Jacobson added.