Could it be that a gray wolf has arrived in Grand Canyon National Park after decades-long absence? Federal and state biologists said they spotted what appears to be a gray wolf in the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The creature has not yet been positively identified, but if it does turn out to be a gray wolf, it will be the first of its kind to have visited the national park in over 70 years.
“It does not appear to be a Mexican wolf,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) spokesperson Jeff Humphrey told the Summit County Voice.
Humphrey explained that the animal, which had been living in the area for about a month, was too large to be a Mexican wolf. Some experts, however, claim it may be a wolf-dog hybrid that wondered onto the park.
“For the last two weeks, our main focus has been the welfare of that animal. We’re going to notify folks that there may be a fully protected wolf up there,” Humphrey said.
The last known gray wolf sighting in the Grand Canyon occurred in the late 1940s, when the species was eliminated from Arizona. If this mystery canine does turn out to be a gray wolf, it would have only arrived at the Grand Canyon after a long and arduous journey. Biologists believe that the animal may have traveled hundreds of miles south from the Northern Rockies, where the wolves were reintroduced back into the wild in the 1990s. Reuters reported that the USFWS is considering sending out a team to capture the wolf for identification. That may be easier than expected, thanks to what appears to be a radio collar around the wolf’s neck. If it does turn out to be a wandering wolf from Wyoming, wildlife officials stated that the animal will be protected under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
Wolves have been known to roam and later “colonize” suitable areas. In June, Oregon biologists found that a mating wolf pair had moved into the Cascade Mountains and produced a litter of pups. It is the westernmost expansion of gray wolves in the Lower 48 states, and like the Grand Canyon, is a region where wolves have been absent since the 1940s.
Photos of the Grand Canyon wolf were released to the public by the Center for Biological Diversity.
Image from Facebook