An animal killed in a New York coyote hunt last year was not a coyote but a wolf, a recent DNA analysis found. The finding contradicts an initial conclusion that the animal was an eastern coyote. It is the third confirmed wolf sighting in the state in the past 25 years.
State Department of Environmental Conservation officials say they are unsure where the male wolf (Canis lupus) originated, but DNA tests suggest it most likely came from the Great Lakes population, which has no known wolves closer than Michigan.
“It is unknown if this animal was a wild animal that moved into New York or if this was a captive-bred animal that was released or escaped,” the DEC said in a press release. “Captive wolves released into the wild in New York have been documented in the past.”
The wolf was taken by a hunter in Otsego County during the 2021 coyote (Canis latrans) hunting season. After an initial analysis determined it was likely a coyote, the DEC sent DNA to Princeton biologist Bridgett vonHoldt, who confirmed it was a wolf.
Her analysis found the sample had 97.8% gray wolf ancestry—almost all associated with Great Lakes wolves—and less than 1% coyote genetics.
The DEC is determining if future research is needed. Officials plan to monitor for additional signs of wolf presence and provide information to hunters and trappers on ways to distinguish between the two species.