Gray wolf killed in Missouri

Gray wolf killed in Missouri

By Rod Myers

By Rod Myers

In October, a gray wolf was killed by a bowhunter in northwest Missouri in the vicinity of Trenton. The hunter was the son of the landowner where the wolf was killed. He thought the wolf was a large coyote, but was startled when he discovered a radio collar around its neck and a red tag in its ear. The man contacted the Missouri Dept. of Conservation and was not charged with illegally killing an endangered species, which the wolf is.

As it happened, the wolf was collared near Iron River in Michigan’s upper peninsula in the spring of ’99. The question is, did this wolf cross through northern Illinois to get to this location?

“The pup weighed 22 pounds when it was collared,” said Dave Hamilton, one of the conservationists who examined the dead wolf. “According to the Michigan DNR, they lost radio contact with the wolf nine months after it was collared.” He went on to tell me that the wolf appeared healthy and weighed in at 88 pounds.

Liz Hartman of the International Wolf Foundation explained that the collar the Missouri wolf wore could not be tracked if the animal ventured beyond the tracking zone, which is usually about 30 miles. Yet, other collars, more sophisticated and linked to a satellite, have no range limit.

I was puzzled as to how the wolf crossed the Mississippi River. “They are very good swimmers,” explained Hartman. “They have the advantage of having webbed front paws.” I would guess it took the easy route and crossed a bridge in the middle of the night, but I’m no wolf expert.

Dave Hamilton remarked, “The wolf had to cross 10 rivers to get to northwest Missouri—that is, if he came through Illinois first.” I wonder if he traveled through northern Illinois, or did the wolf cross the Mississippi in Wisconsin, then cut south through Iowa? Still, he could have crossed into Minnesota from Wisconsin north of the Mississippi’s headwaters and then swung south.

There may have been a wolf killed last year near Columbia, Mo. According to Hamilton, the animal may or may not have been a wolf/dog hybrid. “It weighed 110 pounds and sure looked like a wolf to me,” he recalled. “But DNA testing is not sophisticated enough to distinguish a wolf from a wolf/dog hybrid.”

Northwest Missouri is about 50 percent small towns and agricultural and 50 percent natural areas. Big chunks of Missouri are natural havens for wildlife. Missouri’s Dept. of Conservation boasts about Missouri’s lush prairies, savannas, forests, lakes and rivers, and is dedicated to maintaining, and in some cases restoring, its state’s native natural beauty. However, at this point, Missouri has no plan to reintroduce the wolf or set up a program to protect those that are coming in on their own. Let’s face the facts: one, possibly two, wolves have been killed there. That means there is a good chance others exist there undetected. Good-sized chunks of Missouri are wild, so why shouldn’t the state let wolves re-establish their territory? No doubt, there will be some livestock eaten, but in Wisconsin, where wolves number about 250, and Minnesota, where 2500 wolves live, only small numbers of livestock are killed each year. The farmers are reimbursed by the government.

I think it’s inevitable that wolves are going to try re-establishing themselves through northern Dixie via Missouri, then swing northeast through the Appalachian Mountains and meet with their northern cousins, who are trickling south via Canada into the northern Appalachians.

I am amazed how wolves have become adapted to man’s world. I think we should adapt to the wolves’ world a bit by letting them share the earth with us. I know that south of the borders of Wisconsin and Minnesota, tolerance of wolves will be much less, but I, for one, would like to see wolves move into more southerly regions without starting a civil war.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in nature and the environment. He is a member of the Rockford Amateur Astronomers Club, the Sinnissippi Audubon Society, Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and the Planetary Society.

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