From The Kansas City Star:
When Andrew Protenic looks back on the 2010 Missouri deer season, he’ll have quite a tale to tell.
No, it doesn’t have anything to do with a huge buck. Or an extraordinary shot he took.
Instead, his story centers on an animal he mistook for a coyote and shot — a creature that appears to be a wolf.
For now, the Missouri Department of Conservation isn’t sure just what he killed — a wild wolf that had done some serious traveling or an escaped pet. Perhaps a wolf-dog hybrid.
Resource scientists have collected tissue and hair for DNA analysis, and they’re contacting wildlife biologists from nearby states that have wolves to get a clue to where this animal came from.
But one thing they’re certain of: This definitely isn’t the type of tale they hear often during the Missouri deer season.
“Never in a million years would I have thought I’d see a wolf when I was out deer hunting,” said
Protenic, 34, of Smithville. “I’ve hunted there in Carroll County for eight years now, and I know a lot of the people in the area.
“No one I talked to has ever seen anything that looks like a wolf or talked to anyone who might have one as a pet. This is a real mystery.
“When I first saw it, it just looked like a big coyote.”
Protenic, who was properly licensed to hunt both deer and coyotes, realized he had something far different when he got down from the tower stand he was hunting in Saturday, opening day of the firearms deer season.
He had seen few wolves before. They’re not supposed to be in Missouri.
Though they long ago inhabited the state, they disappeared in the late 1800s due to habitat loss and unregulated hunting. Today, they’re listed as a protected species in Missouri.
But wolves survived and even thrived in Minnesota. From there they spread to neighboring states, such as Wisconsin and Michigan. Still, wolves are listed as a federally endangered species in most of the lower 48 states.
The last time a gray wolf was reported in Missouri was in 2001, when a young animal was mistakenly shot in Grundy County. That wolf had a radio collar and its origin was traced to Michigan.
Could Missouri have attracted another wayward wolf? Missouri officials aren’t sure.
But initial clues indicate it may have been a wild animal.
“The animal was covered in lice, and most captive wolves are generally parasite free,” said Jeff Beringer, a resource scientist for the Department of Conservation. “We also found no wear spots in the elbows, which is common on captive wolves and other animals that spend a lot of time lying around.”
The wolf, a male, weighed 104 pounds and appeared to be 3 years old, Beringer said.
No form of identification — tattoo, ear tag or microchip — was found.
Protenic immediately called a conservation agent and feared he might be in trouble. But no state charges are pending against the hunter.
Wildlife officials expect DNA results to be back in about a week. Then they’ll have a better idea of what they have and perhaps where it came from.
“I’m really interested to hear what they find out,” Protenic said. “If it was a wild animal, it had to travel a long way out of its normal range to get here.”
I had to slow down a bit when I read that the last wolf in Missouri came from Michigan.
Wolves live on the UP of Michigan, which is at least 700 miles away from northern Missouri. That is a long distance. I’ve not heard of wolves dispersing that far from their natural range before, but it is possible.
If a Michigan wolf can show up in Missouri, it could show up in West Virginia, which is even closer to the UP by 100 or so miles.
My guess is that this is a Western wolf of some sort. Maybe it was once captive. Maybe it really did disperse to Missouri, which is actually part of the original range for red wolves, not 100 pounders like this one.
It would be amazing if this animal turned out to be a real wild wolf.
Of course, the fellow who shot it might be in some legal trouble.
This story reminds me of the 85-pound “coyote” that was killed in Massachusetts a few years ago.
It turned out the an Eastern timber wolf that had dispersed from Quebec through Maine and New Hampshire into Massachusetts, where it took up sheep killing as a vocation.
Not a wise choice.