Hunter harvests wolf in Michigan coyote hunt

No wolf had been seen in that part of the state for over a century

An animal harvested as part of a legal coyote hunt in Michigan turned out to be a gray wolf—an unusual appearance in a part of the state’s Lower Peninsula where wolves have not been seen in over a century.

Michigan’s known wolf population is in the Upper Peninsula. The state’s Department of Natural Resouces has found only a few signs of wolf presence in that part of Michigan since the state’s gray wolf (Canis lupus) population became reestablished in the 1980s.

“This is an unusual case, and the DNR is actively delving into the matter to learn more about this particular animal’s origin,” said Brian Roell, large carnivore specialist for the DNR. “While rare, instances of wolves traversing vast distances have been documented, including signs of wolves in recent decades in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.”

The hunter said he encountered what he believed to be a large coyote (Canis latrans). The hunter harvested the animal, which weighed 84 pounds—more than twice the size of typical eastern coyotes. A genetic test by the DNR showed the animal to be a wolf.

Once present throughout Michigan, wolves are now confined almost exclusively to the Upper Peninsula. However, wolves have been detected in the northern Lower Peninsula, including a collared wolf captured and killed by a coyote trapper in 2004, wolflike tracks discovered in 2011 and 2015 and a wolf appearance on a trail camera confirmed by a scat analysis in 201.

Read more from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Header Image: Michigan’s only known wolf populations are in the state’s Upper Peninsula. Credit: louis good via iNaturalist