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UT Wildlife Officials: Hunter Accidentally Kills Endangered Gray Wolf

PHOTO: Utah Wildlife officials are confirming a coyote hunter shot and killed an endangered female gray wolf in the southwestern part of the state on Sunday. Photo courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity.
PHOTO: Utah Wildlife officials are confirming a coyote hunter shot and killed an endangered female gray wolf in the southwestern part of the state on Sunday. Photo courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity.
December 30, 2014

BEAVER, Utah - An endangered female gray wolf was fatally shot Sunday by a hunter near Beaver, Utah, who apparently mistook the animal for a coyote, according to the state Division of Wildlife Resources. State officials say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the animal was a three-year-old northern gray wolf that was radio collared in January near Cody, Wyoming. Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, says it's likely the animal wandered hundreds of miles in search of a mate.

"Young adult wolves head out on their own seeking mates and a new territory," says Robinson. "Sadly, all too many of them end up as this wolf was, shot by people with never a chance to start a population and contribute to recovery of their kind."

According to the Division of Wildlife Resources, the hunter contacted them as soon as he realized he killed a wolf, rather than a coyote. It's not clear what consequences, if any, the hunter may face.

Robinson believes there is little room for error or excuses when it comes to killing an animal that has lingered on the brink of existence.

"The fundamental rule of firearm safety and hunter safety is to know your target 100 percent before pulling the trigger," he says. "It's important to educate people about the possibility that gray wolves, endangered animals, may be present throughout the West in very small numbers."

Robinson says there's a strong possibility the gray wolf killed was the only one in Utah. He says there are an estimated 1,500 gray wolves that live in areas of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT