DNR conservation warden Jeff King of Darlington is investigating the shooting Monday of what appears to be a female wolf in southern Lafayette County near the Illinois State Line in the Town of Wayne.
The hunter thought he was shooting a very large coyote and when he examined the animal closely realized he was looking at a wolf and not a coyote.
He immediately called the warden, "which was the right thing to do," said Warden King.
"There have been many sightings and some confirmed deaths of wolves in southwestern Wisconsin, including a gray wolf documented in Yellowstone Lake State Park last fall, so hunters need to be aware of how to identify these animals."
"There is no open hunting season on wolves," emphasized the warden.
An increased number of wolf sightings in the southern third of the state has again prompted conservation wardens to remind hunters, who are participating in the coyote season due to the recent snowfall, to know the differences between the two animals.
"Virtually all 11 counties that comprise the DNR's South Central Region have had confirmed wolf sightings," pointed out Warden Supervisor Chuck Horn, Dodgeville.
"As the wolf population in northern Wisconsin increases, animals are naturally dispersing (spreading) to other areas (of Wisconsin) with the intention of establishing new packs and territories. In most cases," he noted, "human interference causes these wolves to move on to more suitable habitat."
Yet at any given time, there could be wolves in any part of Wisconsin and hunters should be careful not to mistake a protected wolf for an unprotected coyote, according to Warden King.
"A fair amount of wolves have been mistaken for coyotes during recent hunting seasons and especially now that wolves are back on the federal Endangered Species list, hunters need to be sure of what they are shooting at before pulling the trigger," he said..
Depending on the circumstances, a person found guilty of killing a protected species such as a gray wolf, even unintentionally, could pay a forfeiture running over $4000.
Warden King pointed out that there are some significant physical differences between Great Lakes area wolves and coyotes.
Weight Rarely less than 50 pounds Rarely more than 45 pounds
Height at 28-34 inches 20-24 inches
Total Length 59-66 inches 46-52 inches
General Massive, extremely long legged Delicate, medium sized, dog-like
Appearance proportions with fox-like face
Ears Moderate sized, more round Large in proportion to head and pointed
Color Usually gray, but varying from Usually gray, but varying shades of brown
black to white
Nose Block-like snout or muzzle Long and pointed
"Two key differences are compared to a coyote, a wolf appears massive and very long legged while the coyotes ears are pointed and much larger in proportion to the size of its head," noted Warden King.
"As wolf numbers increase and challenges to the population (size) are addressed down the road, until then, hunters should be cautious and remember to be sure of their target," he added.