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Great Lakes Article:

First Wolf Confirmed In Illinois Since Early 1900s
Associated Press

HENRY, Ill. -- It's taken seven months, but at least Randy Worker finally knows that the animal he shot and killed in Marshall County last Dec. 29 was indeed a gray wolf.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that DNA tests have proved the 92-pound animal was a wolf, and were even able to give genetic clues as to where it may have come from.

"The DNA exam confirms the wolf originated from the Great Lakes pack, either in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan," said Tim Santel, a special agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service. "We can say from the morphological and genetic characteristics it had to be from one of those populations."

Worker, a Henry resident who drives a truck for the Gill Grain Co., has said he thought he was shooting at a common coyote, rather than a federally protected wolf.

"I couldn't tell the difference when I looked at it through my field glasses or through my rifle scope," he said.

Gray wolves, which are also known as timber wolves, have slowly increased in numbers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan since they were listed as a federally endangered species in 1974. And although they were downgraded to threatened this spring, they still are protected under federal law in all states but Alaska.

As a result, a person who kills a wolf can face fines of up to $250,000 and five years in prison.

Worker's case is unique because wolves were not believed present in Illinois, officials said.

"At this time, there haven't been any charges filed," Santel said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said the animal was the third Great Lakes wolf known to have wandered well south of its home range in the past two years. All three may have spent time in Illinois.

In 2001, a wolf that had been fitted with a radio collar in Michigan was shot in northeastern Missouri. On June 23, biologists found a wolf in east-central Indiana that had been born in Wisconsin and traveled more than 400 miles before it was killed, apparently by an automobile.

Biologists believe those wolves dispersed from their packs after reaching adulthood.

Now that there is an increased possibility of wolves migrating southward, state and federal agencies are planning to start educational programs for hunters in Illinois, Indiana and possibly Missouri, Santel said.

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