In December, coyote hunters in southwest Kansas killed an animal they thought was too big to be a coyote. The large male canine weighed more than 80 pounds, more than twice as much as a large coyote. The hunters called the local Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) game warden, who contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agents. The USFWS confirmed through tissue testing that the animal was a full-blooded Great Lakes gray wolf.
Because wolves are still on the Threatened Species list for Kansas, the matter was turned over to the USFWS. Agents then took tissue samples for testing. While uncommon, there are wolf-dog hybrids available through the pet trade, and many of those hybrids are indistinguishable from full-blooded wolves by appearance.
This is the first documented wolf in Kansas since 1905. There have been several wolves killed in Missouri, most recently this past November when a deer hunter shot what he thought was a coyote. That animal, which tested as a full-blooded wolf, weighed 81 pounds.
Officials would still like to know how this wolf ended up in Kansas. However, questions about its origin may be difficult to answer.
Image courtesy Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism