The Rare Gray Wolf that was shot dead by a hunter in Iowa last February was the first species of its kind to be spotted in the state since 1925, according to DNA testing on the Wolf.
The hunter, who hasn’t been named, shot the female wolf near Fairbank in northwest Buchanan County believing it to be a similar-looking coyote. It is legal to shoot coyote in Iowa, though hunting wolves is illegal as they are a protected species.
On closer inspection, the hunter thought the supposed coyote may have been a wolf and brought the animal to the DNR office in Manchester, where biologists examined it and took DNA samples.
Iowa previously had two sub species of gray wolf – the Great Plains wolf and the gray timber wolf.
But they were systematically killed or driven out of the state by Iowa settlers who considered them a threat to their livestock.
According to the 2012 wolf status report, a reliable researcher concluded that Iowa’s last valid wolf record occurred in Butler County in the winter of 1884-1885.
However, a timber wolf was shot in Shelby County in 1925, though it’s not clear if it was wild or had escaped captivity.
“I was surprised but not that surprised,” DNR furbearer specialist Vince Evelsizer told The Gazette, describing his reaction to the news given the fact Wisconsin and Minnesota each have substantial wolf populations. “Large animals can cover great distances, and state lines mean nothing to them,” he said.
The hunter was not cited, DNR Conservation Officer Scott Kinseth said, as they believed the shooting was a genuine mistake. Kinseth said the hunter was extremely cooperative and had no idea he was doing anything morally or legally wrong. However, he warned hunters in future to think before they shoot.
“They are protected animals. We know they are here. Make sure of your target. If in doubt, don’t shoot,” he told The Gazette. The wolf was a healthy female weighing between 65 and 70 pounds. This is normal size for wolves in neighboring states but about twice as heavy as the average coyote.