Wolf Confirmed In Illinois Since Early 1900s
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
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,"
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,"
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.