DNA shows hunter-shot canine from October to be wandering wolf

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HOWARD COUNTY, Mo – Last fall, a hunter in Howard County shot what has been recently confirmed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to be a wolf. According to MDC Resource Scientist and Furbearer Biologist Jeff Beringer, tissue samples from the 81-pound male animal, mistaken as a coyote by the hunter, were sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for genetic testing. Recently received DNA test results confirm that the animal was a gray wolf from the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan. Beringer added that the animal did not have ear tags, tattoos, other identification or physical signs that indicated it was a captive animal.

Also known as timber wolves, gray wolves once inhabited northern Missouri but were gone from the state by the late 1800s due to hunting and habitat loss.

Beringer said that there is no evidence of a breeding population in the state, but wolves occasionally wander into Missouri from northern states. He added that MDC has never stocked wolves and has no plans to restore this once-native species.

A previous case of mistaken identity happened in late 2010 with the shooting of what also appeared to be an unusually large coyote in Carroll County. DNA test results of the 104-pound canine linked the animal to timber wolves from Great Lakes states.

While wolf sightings in Missouri are very rare, another past case occurred in 2001. It involved an 80-pound timber wolf killed by a landowner in Grundy County. The man also mistook the wolf for a coyote, but discovered his mistake when he found the animal wore a radio collar and an ear tag linking it to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, more than 600 miles away. He notified MDC, which was able to confirm its origin with Michigan officials.

For more information on wolves, visit MDC’s online Field Guide at mdc.mo.gov/node/19615.