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Test results conclusively identified two large canines shot this winter in Osceola County and Van Buren County as wolves, likely originating from the Great Lakes population in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The samples were tested at the University of California-Davis.
Investigation into both shootings was conducted and no charges will be filed in either case.
“We understand this is a sensitive topic and that our decision not to charge will be unpopular with some, but in these two incidents, based on the results of our investigation we feel it is the right course of action,” said Chuck Gipp, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
The wolves will be used for education outreach at the local county conservation boards.
Gray wolves are listed as endangered under endangered species laws at both state and federal level and there is no open season in Iowa. Iowa has seen a recent increase in the number of wolves moving in from established populations in the Great Lakes region, so hunters need to be aware of the possibility that what they are looking at may not be a coyote.
“Going forward, hunters need to know the difference between the species,” said Gipp. “On our end, we will provide additional wolf-coyote identification tools on our website and in our publications. We know hunters want to do the right thing and we want to help them.”
The DNR is asking anyone who encounters a wolf to contact their local conservation officer or wildlife biologist.
Coyotes and wolves share many similar characteristics including coloring, but there are features where they differ.
Wolves are 5-6 feet long from nose to tail, 27-33 inches at the shoulder and weigh 50-100 pounds. Coyotes are 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet long, 20-22 inches at the shoulder and weigh 35-40 pounds.
Coyote hunting season is open all year long, but participation is often highest in January and February especially after January 10 when other hunting seasons close. The number of coyotes harvested in 2013-14 was an all time record high of 15,347. The second highest total was in 2014-15 with 13,911. The current season is expected to be similar. Hunting and trapping are about the only tools to provide some level of population management for coyotes.
The DNR is reviewing how it handles reported sightings for wolves and other occasional visitors internally as the number of these visitors is increasing.