Feds investigating shooting of a possible gray wolf in Marshall County
A Britton-area man is caught up in a federal investigation after shooting an animal that may be a gray wolf.
Mike Werner said he was hunting coyotes by a slough near Clear Lake in Marshall County on Jan. 13 when he shot and killed what he thought was a bigger, darker coyote that came up behind him about 100 yards away.
Immediately after shooting the animal, Werner said he realized it was much larger than a coyote and resembled a wolf.
Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating the case.
Casey Dowler, a conservation officer with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department in Marshall County, said the animal is being tested at a federal lab.
Dowler would not give anymore information on the case because there is an active federal investigation into the shooting of the animal.
GFP Conservation Officer Supervisor Mike Klosowski said harvesting, trapping or recreational hunting of wolves is illegal.
Klosowski said any case involving gray wolves falls under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said GFP has no wolf management authority at this time.
“So, when we have an incident where a gray wolf is killed by a member of the public, we’d likely respond to the call, do a preliminary investigation then pass it off to Fish and Wildlife Service,” Klosowski said. “Then they would do any kind of prosecution on their end, or not prosecute on their end.”
Klosowski said gray wolf sightings are uncommon in northeastern South Dakota, but transient wolves do come through the state from time to time.
“To the east we have Minnesota. Northern Minnesota has a healthy population of gray wolves,” he said. “Then when you go out west near Yellowstone National Park, you have a very healthy population of wolves out there too.”
He explained that wolves are known to venture away from their pack to start their own pack in a new territory.
Although gray wolves have not established populations in South Dakota, the species is still illegal to kill in the state.
Klosowski said if USFWS were to prosecute someone for killing a gray wolf the case would go to court.
Knowing that wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act and in South Dakota, Werner said he left the animal where it was shot and called the local game warden.
Werner said the animal had an old trapping injury on its foot, where it was missing a couple toes and part of its foot pad.
On another foot, the animal had a trapping device. Werner believes the animal was trapped and was able to break free of the chains that kept him immobilized.
Werner said if the lab results show the animal to be a dog-coyote hybrid, he will be able to take the animal home.
USFWS officials were unable to comment on the ongoing investigation.
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