The Grand Canyon's Only Gray Wolf May Have Been Shot by a Hunter

A three-year-old female was most likely killed by a hunter who thought the animal was a coyote.

A three-year-old female wolf photographed near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in November 2014 is now feared dead, as a hunter in Utah reportedly mistook it for a coyote and shot it on Dec. 28. (Photo: Courtesy the Center for Biological Diversity)


Jan 5, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

A gray wolf spotted roaming the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon in November had wildlife enthusiasts thrilled at the sight of the species returning to the area for the first time in 70 years.

But on Dec. 28, after surviving a 500-mile trek from its home in the Northern Rockies, the three-year-old female encountered a hunter who shot the protected species after mistaking it for a coyote.

“It’s heartbreaking that another far-wandering wolf has been cut down with a fatal gunshot,” Michael Robinson, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “This female wolf could have helped wolves naturally recover in remote regions of Utah and neighboring states.”

The hunter, who has yet to be identified, alerted state authorities about the kill. They in turn contacted United States Fish and Wildlife Service officials.

FWS spokesperson Steve Segin said agency biologists are examining DNA from the wolf to determine if it is the one spotted near the Grand Canyon in November.

So far, no charges have been filed against the hunter for killing a protected species. But Mark Hadley of Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources said that remains a possibility as the investigation is ongoing.

But hunters killing wolves while crying “coyote” has become an all-too-frequent occurrence, Robinson said. The smaller, more abundant canines aren’t protected, so hunters can claim they are targeting coyotes without suspicion.

Robinson said prosecuting hunters who kill wolves is just one of the changes necessary to protect the species if the gray wolf is to have a chance of expanding its habitat from the Northwest and Great Lakes regions through Utah and into Arizona.

“Wolves in Utah deserve real, on-the-ground protection,” said Robinson. “That means, first, keeping them on the endangered species list; second, spreading the word about their presence as an endangered species; third, prosecuting those who kill them; and finally, developing a science-based recovery plan so that instead of one or two lone and vulnerable wolves, Utah and the West will eventually boast hundreds more wolves to stave off extinction and help keep ecosystems in healthy balance.”

Gray wolves were almost hunted to extinction by the early 1900s; a 40-year-long recovery effort has pushed the population up to around 5,500 in the continental United States.

In a recent study, the Center for Biological Diversity identified an additional 359,000 square miles of wolf-friendly habitat, including the Grand Canyon area.