I am heartbroken to report that on December 28, a hunter in southern Utah shot and killed a young, collared female gray wolf — likely the same wolf seen a few weeks ago near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. DNA confirmation is still to come. The hunter claimed he didn’t see the collar and thought he was shooting a coyote.
Gray wolves are endangered, protected animals and conservationists and environmentalists were overjoyed when the Grand Canyon wolf, named Echo in a children’s naming contest, was found so far from the Northern Rockies where she was first collared. She was the first gray wolf seen in the Grand Canyon region in 70 years.
Personally, I doubt the shooting was a mistake. I doubt a hunter would mistake a wolf for a coyote, especially one wearing a collar. I’m inclined to think that, despite the law, most western hunters and ranchers will shoot any wolf they see if they think they can get away with it. And just because this particular Utah hunter reported the “mistaken” killing himself does not, in my book, let him off the hook.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, this is the 11th documented case since 1981 where a hunter has killed a wolf and claimed to have mistaken it for a coyote.
As an afterthought, I’m wondering why the collars used on endangered animals are not brightly colored — hunter/blaze/safety orange for example. The only reason I can think of is that it would alert their prey. But if a hunter can wear the color and still hunt successfully, why couldn’t a wolf?
Even if the dead wolf turns out not to be Echo, the loss is still a tragedy. And unlikely as it would be in a state once determined to eradicate wolves and that pays $50 bounties on coyotes (which would obviously encourage shooting anything that looks even remotely like a coyote), I hope the hunter is prosecuted.