A lone wolf who was repeatedly spotted near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon this fall may have met her demise this weekend at the hands of a hunter in Utah, according to news reports out of that state. The hunter shot the endangered animal while he was hunting coyotes. The state is willing to pay $50 for each dead coyote, and the man said that he had shot and killed the gray wolf on accident.
The endangered gray wolf became a sensation after her photos appeared on the news and many people rooted for her continued survival. After news reached AZ Central columnist EJ Montini about her possible death, he wrote a sad tribute to her in an article titled, Hoooowl no! Canyon wolf may have been killed. Here is an excerpt:
“I’m hoping she did not travel hundreds of miles through unforgiving wilderness, as if called back to the place where her ancestral packs roamed free, only to be shot dead by a bounty hunter.”
Montini was referencing the wolf’s trek across the West after she strayed away from her pack in Cody, Wyoming. The canine traveled a grueling 500-mile journey from the Rocky Mountains to the Grand Canyon. Montini told in the article that she represents something important to all humans, and “maybe the most important thing of all — hope.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that the wolf was a 3-year-old female outfitted with a collar near Cody. According to Yahoo News, wildlife groups, already fearing the worst, were currently waiting for the DNA test results that would confirm if the wolf was “the lone female they had been tracking since October.”
Michael Robinson, with the Center for Biological Diversity, spoke to Live Science about the incident. He told them that the animal’s safety had been a worry of theirs, and that he was very saddened by the death. He told news outlets that the incident demonstrated just how vulnerable the species is, and that the need for protection was extremely important.
Robinson added that, “What we need is a response that follows the Endangered Species Act and prevents these kinds of occurrences from happening again. We think a thorough investigation is imperative.” He said that programs that educate people regarding what gray wolves look like and provide other information about them could spread awareness that the species is endangered.
Gray wolves still receive federal protection in Arizona and Utah, and at this time it’s not known if the coyote hunter will face any charges. The species had been wiped out from the Copper State in the 1940s, making the female wolf the first of its kind to set foot there in over 70 years. It was one of the reasons that wildlife groups had been so excited about news of her sightings last October.
Thinking ahead, EJ Montini also wrote in Hoooowl no! that other wolves that may follow the slain wolf’s trail back to Arizona. He told that they might…
…find their way back to the wild country north of the Grand Canyon again. She is proof that nature finds a way, that while human mistakes can have devastating effects for a very long time, they don’t have to last forever.”