A gray wolf killed by a Utah hunter may have been Echo – a wolf who attracted national attention after she became the first of the protected animals in 70 years to visit the Grand Canyon.
The unnamed hunter told Utah wildlife authorities on Sunday that he accidentally shot a wolf equipped with a radio collar near the Arizona border, after he mistook it for a coyote. Though coyotes are allowed to be shot on sight in Utah, wolves are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and therefore require a special permit to kill.
Information from the radio collar suggested that the wolf killed in Utah was a three-year-old female, and Echo was the same age; further testing is required before anything can be verified. Whether or not Echo was the one who was killed, wildlife advocates have argued that the death was a shame.
“It’s very sad either way,” Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said.
Echo was the first gray wolf seen in the Grand Canyon since the 1940s. In October, Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Ed Bangs argued that Echo was looking for love.
“It’s looking for love,” Bangs said. “It leaves the core population and doesn’t know the love of its life is going to be right over the next hill, so it just keeps traveling.”
The incident is currently being investigated by federal and state conservation officers, according to authorities, who noted that the killing was a possible violation of U.S. and Utah wildlife laws.