An Iowa hunter shot a rare gray wolf, seen in the state for the first time since 1925, thinking it was a similar-looking coyote.
DNA testing has just confirmed the animal’s species. The unnamed hunter shot the female wolf in February in Iowa’s Buchanan County. While wolf-hunting is illegal in the state, it is perfectly legal to shoot coyotes.
Examining his kill, the hunter realized he may have made a mistake and brought the carcass to the state’s DNR office in Manchester. There biologists took DNA samples.
“I was surprised, but not that surprised,” DNR furbearer specialist Vince Evelsizer told the Gazette, “Large animals can cover great distances, and state lines mean nothing to them.”
Wisconsin and Minnesota both have sizeable wolf populations. DNA from the wolf that was shot, a healthy female weighing in at about 70 pounds, was similar to the species found there.
Wolves were protected under the Endangered Species Act in all of the continental United States from 1974 until 2009, when the gray wolf was removed from the list. But as a designated furbearer, it still has protected status in Iowa.
The appearance of the wolf in Iowa confirms that once-endangered big predators have re-entered Iowa, including the black bear and mountain lion.
Wolf sightings in Iowa are extremely rare. The last valid record is from Butler County in the winter of 1884-1885. The timber wolf that was shot in 1925 may have escaped from captivity.
DNR Conservation Officer Scott Kinseth said that the hunter would not be written up, as he had made a genuine mistake and had cooperated with the DNR.
He did have a message for other hunters going forward.
“They are protected animals. We know they are here. Make sure of your target. If in doubt, don't shoot.”