A couple of large canines that were shot this winter by hunters in northwest and southeast Iowa have tested positive as wolves, which are protected under law as endangered species. Vince Evelsizer, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says both hunters thought they were shooting coyotes.
“In both cases, the hunters immediately contacted the Iowa DNR when they walked up on the animal after shooting it and saw that it was bigger than what they thought…that it wasn’t the typical size of a coyote, it was bigger,” Evelsizer said. The wolves were shot in Osceola and Van Buren Counties.
According to Evelsizer, the wolves likely wandered into Iowa from the Great Lakes population in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. More wolves have been spotted in Iowa in recent years. “We still don’t have very many,” Evelsizer said. “At any one time, we may have one or two single wolves in our state. We don’t have an established breeding population, so the odds of seeing one are still very low.”
Iowa’s coyote hunting season is open all year long, but participation is often highest in January and February. Last year, hunters in Iowa killed just under 14,000 coyotes.
Evelsizer is asking hunters to make sure they know the difference between a coyote and wolf. While they are similar in color, wolves are 5-6 feet long from nose to tail and weigh 50-100 pounds. Coyotes are shorter in length and weigh 35-40 pounds. “The thing to look at the most is the size of the animal and how it’s built,” Evelsizer said. “If it looks a lot bigger than a typical coyote, then you probably better hold off and not take a shot at that animal.”
No charges are being filed against the two hunters, as investigators determined both cases were accidents and the hunters immediately contacted the DNR.
“In their defense, sometimes if that animal is out there a ways, it’s hard to tell scale…you know, if it is that big or that small,” Evelsizer said. The two wolves that were shot will be used for education outreach at the local county conservation boards.