Regional: Animal shot near Kremmling might be a wolf
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting DNA tests on an animal shot by a coyote hunter on April 29 near Kremmling to determine if the animal is a gray wolf.
“The way they’ll look at is it’s a potential wild wolf in Grand County,” said Steve Segin, a public affairs officer with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
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.
Gray wolves in Colorado are protected under the Endangered Species Act, though 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.
“It’s too early to speculate” whether the animal is a wolf, Segin said. “Until the DNA comes back, we’re just not going to know.”
The tests are likely to take a couple weeks, he said, adding it’s possible the animal is a wolf-dog hybrid, a dog or a coyote.
The story was first posted on the Colorado Mule Deer Association Facebook page at approximately 9 a.m. Friday, May 15.
The posting includes what it describes as “the investigation report.” Here are some excerpts:
“… while hunting on BLM land near Wolford Mountain Reservoir in Grand County, a licensed coyote hunter shot and killed what he says he thought was a coyote. Upon further inspection, the hunter discovered that the animal appeared to be a wolf.
The hunter immediately called the CPW office in Hot Sulphur Springs to report the incident. A District Wildlife Manager responded to the scene to investigate.
The officer brought the carcass to CPW’s office in Hot Sulphur Springs where it was inspected further by additional agency personnel.
The Area Wildlife Manager invited a biologist from Alaska, who coincidentally was attending the 49th North American Moose Conference and Workshop in Kremmling, to visually inspect the carcass.
Based on the initial, visual inspection by CPW personnel and the biologist from Alaska, the animal appeared to be a wild, male gray wolf, weighing approximately 90 lbs …
The animal did not have a collar, ear tag or PIT tag when it was inspected.
… The hunter has not been charged for the illegal take of a gray wolf at this time, pending further investigation and identification of the animal.”
“Obviously, killing an endangered species is illegal,” Segin said. “What’s important is the hunter did the right thing and contacted Parks and Wildlife.”
Initial inquiries to Parks and Wildlife were referred to the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is now the lead agency on the case pending the outcome of DNA tests.
The name of the hunter has not been released.
Last year, a gray wolf from near Cody, Wyo., 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 has not been resolved and is still 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.
Young males sometimes are rejected by a pack, so they head out on their own.
“They call them dispersers,” Segin said.
If the animal shot near Kremmling turns out to be a wolf, he said it’s likely it was such a lone wolf.
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