Authorities believe there may have been an endangered gray wolf sighting in the Grand Canyon. If the wolf is definitely identified, it will officially be the first time anyone has seen a gray wolf in the Grand Canyon since the 1940s, when the last one in the area was killed.
The wolf was first photographed roughly three weeks ago in the Kaibab National Forest, north of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Jeff Humphrey. Since then, the wolf has been seen repeatedly, and on Thursday, environmental groups decided to make the sightings public.
According to Reuters, Noah Greenwald, of the Center for Biological Diversity, explained that the environmentalists released information about the Grand Canyon sightings in order to try and ensure that no one shoots the wolf because they mistook it for a coyote.
Not everyone agrees with the decision to release the information.
Jim DeVos, assistant director for wildlife management with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, indicated that making the information public before a possible ID has been made is irresponsible, especially since there is a wolf hybrid breeder about 30 miles away from the Grand Canyon.
“Until we get confirmation of the DNA, everything is uncertain, and everyone’s interpretation of the pictures is uncertain,” DeVos said.
The Grand Canyon wolf was reported to be wearing an electronic collar similar to the one worn by wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain wolf recovery effort. At first, people mistook the item for a simple dog collar, leading to further need for positive ID.
Once it was noted that the collar resembled those in the recovery effort, the National Park Service flew over the Grand Canyon trying to use it to find the wolf. Unfortunately, no radio signals were picked up.
“That means the animal is either not from the wolf recovery project or, more likely, the battery is just dead,” said Steve Spangle, a field supervisor for the wildlife service in Phoenix.
Non-lethal traps are being set all around the area of the Grand Canyon where the wolf was spotted. Authorities are hoping to use the ID of an endangered gray wolf to prove that removing the protected status of wolves is premature because they are still regaining a foothold in certain areas.
“Certainly the presence of a true gray wolf is important. That’s why we need to go capture it and take a tissue sample,” DeVos added.
[Image courtesy of National Parks Traveler]