The elegant, majestic Gray Wolf remains on the endangered species list. There was a time when the Canis Lupus roamed freely throughout the 48 contiguous United States, but no more. In fact, no Gray Wolf was seen in the state of Kentucky for 150 years.
Until this March.
Kentuckian James Troyer spotted the female wolf wandering around his property in Hart County. Apparently unaware of the significance of his find, he promptly shot and killed her.
Troyer, 31, said that he thought the animal was a coyote. He was out that day hunting for predators. When he approached the fallen animal, he realized that he had not shot a coyote at all.
“I was like – wow – that thing was big! It looked like a wolf, but who is going to believe I shot a wolf?” he told the Louisville Courier-Journal.
A hunter who described himself as Troyer’s “hunting pardner” posted on the internet message board Kentucky Hunting (warning: link contains graphic photos) that the wolf weighed 73 pounds, was 30 inches tall and 45 inches long, “nose to hip,” much larger than a coyote.
But Kentucky wildlife officials said that from a distance of 100 yards, which is from where Troyer said he shot the wolf, the size differential would be difficult to discern.
Even wildlife biologists at the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources weren’t sure the animal was a wolf at first. Only after DNA testing were they able to determine that the slain creature was in fact a Canis Lupus.
While no one is sure how the wolf arrived in Kentucky, researchers discovered signs that the animal may have previously lived in captivity, which can be indicated by the amount of plaque on a wolf’s teeth. Wild wolves have less plaque since their carnivorous diet requires that they break the bones of their prey.
By the 1930s, hunters nearly eliminated the gray wolf population in this country. Only recently have scientists seen signs of a wolf comeback in areas around the Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes.
Hunting or owning gray wolves is illegal. Hunting coyotes is not, in Kentucky, so there are no plans to charge Troyer.
SOURCES: Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky Hunting Forum, Care2