Hunter Kills First Gray Wolf Seen In Lower Peninsula Of Michigan For 100 Years

Hunter Kills First Gray Wolf Seen In Lower Peninsula Of Michigan For 100 Years

Hunter Kills First Gray Wolf Seen In Lower Peninsula Of Michigan For 100 Years

A coyote hunt in Michigan’s Calhoun County had a major mishap recently after a hunter accidentally shot the first gray wolf seen in this part of the state in over a century.

During a legal coyote hunt in January, a Michigan hunter and their guide encountered what was initially believed to be a large coyote. Upon being killed, they realized this individual was way too big to be a coyote. Eastern coyotes typically weigh less than 18 kilograms (40 pounds), but this animal weighed a whopping 38 kilograms (84 pounds). 

A series of genetic tests by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has now confirmed their suspicion: the harvested animal was an endangered gray wolf. 

Wolves were once common throughout Michigan, but the population was decimated in the 19th century due to culls and intensive logging. Small populations managed to claw on in the Upper Peninsula, but wolves have not been spotted in the Lower Peninsula since the start of the 20th century. These two parts of the state are separated by the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Experts are still trying to understand why the individual was in the Lower Peninsula. Between 2004 and 2015, several strands of evidence suggested that wolves may be creeping into the northern part of the Lower Peninsula. However, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources doubts this hunted animal is evidence of a newly established wolf population in the area. 

Wolves can roam for thousands of kilometers, so it’s possible this individual had simply strayed far away from home, perhaps in search of a mate or food. 

“This is an unusual case, and the [Department of Natural Resources] is actively delving into the matter to learn more about this particular animal’s origin,” Brian Roell, large carnivore specialist for the DNR, said in a statement. 

“While rare, instances of wolves traversing vast distances have been documented, including signs of wolves in recent decades in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula,” added Roell. 

Coyotes and wolves belong to the biological family of canids and the two species are very closely related. Most eastern coyotes are the product of hybridization with wolves, as well as domestic dogs. Likewise, all gray wolf populations in North America feature some degree of admixture with coyotes. 

Along with their size differences, there are key visible distinctions between the two canid cousins. Wolves have larger and blockier muzzles, while coyotes have longer snouts and more elongated features. The ears of wolves tend to be shorter and rounder than those of a coyote, which are often tall and pointy.

That said, it’s not hard to see how the two species are sometimes confused from afar. 

Source: iflscience

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Hunter Kills First Gray Wolf Seen In Lower Peninsula Of Michigan For 100 Years

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