DNA confirms animal killed near Kremmling was a wolf
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed Thursday afternoon that the animal shot by a coyote hunter April 29 near Kremmling was in fact a gray wolf.
The hunter immediately notified Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which alerted the Fish and Wildlife Service. It is not clear whether the hunter, whose name has not been released, will be subject to prosecution.
“Obviously, killing an endangered species is illegal,” Steve Segin, a public affairs officer with the Fish and Wildlife Service, said earlier this month. “What’s important is the hunter did the right thing and contacted Parks and Wildlife.”
The gray wolf is protected by both the federal government and the state of Colorado as an endangered species.
The Fish and Wildlife Service routinely investigates incidents affecting endangered species and will conduct this investigation with the assistance of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, according to a statement prepared by the agency.
The DNA analysis was done at the Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon. The animal was a male weighing about 90 pounds.
The hunter apparently thought the animal, which he shot near Wolford Mountain Reservoir, was a coyote. According to reports, after examining it more closely and thinking it might be a wolf, he turned it over to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Though gray wolves are protected in Colorado, the state is not home to an officially recognized population of the species. However, they are capable of covering long distances and have been confirmed as at least visiting Colorado in the recent past.
Last year, a gray wolf from near Cody, Wyoming, made what became a nationally celebrated 750-mile journey to the Grand Canyon. In February, in a scenario similar to this one near Kremmling, a licensed coyote hunter near Beaver, Utah, shot and killed the wolf, which had been named Echo in a national contest in public schools.
Segin said that incident had not been resolved earlier in May and remained under investigation.
Another notable wolf case in northwest Colorado took place in 2009 in Rio Blanco County, where a wolf was found dead and later determined to have been killed by a banned poison. That wolf traveled more than 1,000 miles from Montana’s Mill Creek pack.
It is not unusual behavior for wolves to cover such distances, Segin said.
Males sometimes are rejected by a pack, so they head out on their own.
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