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DNA tests confirm animal was a wolf

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The animal killed by coyote hunters last month in Trego County has been confirmed as a wolf, the first instance of a wolf in Kansas in almost 75 years.

Through DNA testing, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed the animal was a western Great Lakes wolf, according to Ron Kaufman, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. They are considered a distinct subspecies of the gray wolf.

The animal, killed by still-unidentified coyote hunters in early December, weighed in at approximately 85 pounds, more than twice the size of a coyote also killed during the hunt.

Previously, the last gray wolf killed in Kansas was during the winter of 1938-39. Museum specimens exist from both Gove and Trego counties.

The animal had been retrieved from the hunters by KDWP&T and since has been turned over to the federal wildlife agency. Gray wolves are a protected species in areas outside the extreme northern United States.

While the DNA testing has confirmed it as a wolf, Kaufman said there's a lot that still isn't known.

"We don't know if the wolf had been in confinement or captivity because the lab is unable to determine that kind of information," Kaufman said in an email releasing the results of the DNA test. "We can speculate that the wolf traveled here on its own. Other wolves from the introduction efforts in the Great Lakes region have been found in Missouri and Nebraska.

"Wolves often travel great distances, and this individual may simply have been traveling across the country. There are a number of questions for which we may never know."