Michigan Hunter Kills Wolf, Says He Thought It Was a Coyote

An investigation is ongoing about the incident, in which the hunter, guide and taxidermist all say they thought the 84-pound animal was a coyote.

Michigan Hunter Kills Wolf, Says He Thought It Was a Coyote

A Michigan man is under investigation and public scrutiny after state wildlife officials confirmed the 84-pound “coyote” he killed is an endangered gray wolf. The man said he killed the “absolutely huge coyote” in a Facebook post in January. State wildlife officials immediately were skeptical due to the size of the animal, since most coyotes weigh 25 to 40 pounds. They began investigating, and genetic hair and tissue samples confirmed it to be a Great Lakes gray wolf.

Gray wolves are considered endangered and have federal protection. Despite the off-on again saga of the wolves, mostly in court proceedings, they currently are protected and cannot be hunted. The man told officials he killed it in Calhoun County while hunting with a guide. The county is in south-central Michigan, between Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor. Michigan’s population of Great Lakes wolves is in the Upper Peninsula, more than 300 miles from Calhoun County.

Officials began questioning how the hunter, guide and taxidermist did not recognize it as a wolf. Even state legislators have weighed in, with 26 of them urging wildlife officials to not pursue any criminal charges against the hunter. BridgeMI.com reported that the Republican legislators say the Michigan DNR has “shaky grounds” for any charges. Federal officials could pursue the case, however, but little is being said about the ongoing investigation. 

Michigan DNR officials in a press release said the gray wolf in Calhoun County is “a species not sighted in that part of Michigan since the likely extirpation of wolves from the state in the early part of the 20th century. Once present throughout Michigan, wolves are now confined almost exclusively to the Upper Peninsula. The presence of this wolf in Calhoun County remains a matter of investigation by the DNR. The department does not suspect the animal was part of an established population in the southern Lower Peninsula.” Officials said, however, that data from collared wolves in Michigan “have shown the animals can travel thousands of miles, in some cases far beyond their known range.” Neighboring states Minnesota and Wisconsin currently have populations of gray wolves, primarily in the northern part of both states. “This is an unusual case, and the DNR is actively delving into the matter to learn more about this particular animal’s origin,” said Brian Roell, large carnivore specialist for the DNR. “While rare, instances of wolves traversing vast distances have been documented, including signs of wolves in recent decades in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.” Targeted winter track surveys in the northern Lower Peninsula in 2019 yielded no evidence of wolves in that part of Michigan. The department plans to conduct another targeted track survey in 2025 with resident assistance.



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