DNA tests confirm two protected gray wolves, mistaken as coyotes, were killed in Iowa.
A lab at the University of California-Davis has confirmed suspicions that have been roaming throughout Iowa for months. Two shot canines mistaken as coyotes have both in fact turned out to be protected gray wolves. The wolves were taken this past winter in Osceola and Van Buren counties.
In spite of increasing population in recent years, the state of Iowa has no wolf hunting season. Though the two canids were shot illegally, investigations have been performed on both cases and no charges will be filed against either hunter, causing concern for some in the state.
Understanding both the concerns and the mistaken identity issues, the state of Iowa has committed to grow its efforts in educating hunters on the differences between coyotes and gray wolves, most of whom are migrating into the state from the Great Lakes area. States like Minnesota and Wisconsin have also seen an increase in the population of gray wolves in recent years.
Typical gray wolf behavior leads experts to believe the two harvested wolves may have left their original packs in search of new territory to establish new packs. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will provide new species identification resources on its website and in other printed hunting and wildlife materials.
For most hunters, the easiest way to spot the difference between the similar looking animals is the size. A mature gray wolf will stand taller than a coyote and can tip the scales at over 100 pounds, roughly three times the size of a common coyote. One other feature that can help hunters distinguish a gray wolf from a coyote is the animal’s long, slender legs that contribute to its taller stature.
As sightings continue to increase, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is asking anyone who encounters what they believe to be a gray wolf to contact their local conservation office.