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Tragic Mistake: Michigan Hunter Accidentally Kills Wolf, Believing it to be a Coyote, 100 Miles West of Detroit

Thayne Muthler

In Michigan, a strange event happened where a hunter shot and killed what he thought was a big Eastern coyote but turned out to be an 84-pound gray wolf. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shared this news on Wednesday and is now looking into if the hunter should be investigated or charged for this incident that happened in January.

The person who was hunting, and their identity is not known yet, they were following a coyote hunting guide in Calhoun County which located at the south part of Lower Peninsula. DNR expert Brian Roell on wolves - he told Outdoor Life magazine that all wolves living in Michigan are usually found in the Upper Peninsula where there's about 600 to 700 of them forming around 120 to 130 groups.

The DNR states that Eastern coyotes usually weigh about 25 to 40 pounds. But, the animal in this story weighed more than twice that amount. It's strange how the hunter and his guide misidentified it, particularly if they closely examined its remains. Normally, wolves have shorter noses and rounder faces compared to the sharper-angled faces and longer snouts of coyotes (DNR).

The DNR's DNA test showed that the creature was indeed a gray wolf. Male gray wolves in Michigan usually weigh about 87 pounds when they become adults, while females are around 76 pounds at this stage of life. The size of this wolf is not unusual for its kind, which makes it normal sized for the species. However, we still don't know how or why it came to Calhoun County.

Roell stressed that these are unusual instances, not the usual situation. In history, wolves were present all over Michigan before humans came to settle there. But places like the oak savannahs in southern Lower Peninsula are not typically appropriate homes for wolves. Yet sometimes, they travel quite far from their groups, and it is known that a wolf can roam over thousands of miles during its journey.

"Before this event, we had records of wolves from Michigan being discovered in Missouri. And not long ago, a single wolf traveled over 4,000 miles through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota as well as Ontario and Manitoba," Roell explained further. "Even though it is true that some wolves have made their way to the Lower Peninsula in the past too, crossing across five-mile-wide Straits of Mackinac does not typically happen because there are no ice bridges available for them to use recently. It remains a mystery how this wolf made its way here and we cannot be sure about the exact reason."

As per the DNR, they are continuing their investigation into this case. Gray wolves in Michigan are considered an endangered species under federal law and it is a crime to harm them. But, as stated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, usually harsh penalties such as fines reaching $75,000 along with 18 months of jail term are kept for intentional killings of wolves. If the hunter's actions are considered an honest mistake, he might not face any legal or monetary consequences.