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Federally Protected Wolf Mistaken for Coyote and Killed in South Dakota

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A hunter mistakenly killed a gray wolf in South Dakota, claiming he believed it was the “biggest coyote he had ever seen.” This tragedy points up a problem that concerned citizens have been warning against for years: the possibility that wolves will be shot by hunters who mistake them for coyotes.

South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks doesn’t recognize a wolf population within the state, informs hunters that transient wolves are very uncommon, and offers very little information to assist hunters in distinguishing federally endangered, protected gray wolves from unprotected coyotes.

“It’s a MUST that federal and state wildlife authorities provide the public with appropriate information and guides to recognize wildlife, as gray wolves have been spotted in South Dakota intermittently over the last few years,” states Maggie Howell, Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center. Two gray wolves, one from the Great Lakes Region and one from Yellowstone National Park, were found dead in South Dakota in 2012.

Wolves are wanderers, venturing out in search of new territory, food, and mates, so it’s crucial that hunters not only know wolves are protected by Federal law and killing one is a crime, but also know how to properly identify an endangered gray wolf.

Should federal and state wildlife authorities best support the Endangered Species Act, and the endangered wildlife within their state, and educate the public about wolves and coyotes?