Officials have confirmed that a beloved Grand Canyon wolf was shot and killed by a Utah hunter. Echo the wolf was an icon, as she was the first wolf observed in the region since the 1940s.
In December 2014, a coyote hunter contacted the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to report he had mistakenly shot a wolf. The unidentified man said he did not realize his mistake until after Echo was dead.
Following the shooting, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials confiscated the wolf’s carcass for identification. As reported by Denver Post, DNA testing performed by the University of Idaho confirmed the wolf was indeed Echo.
The Grand Canyon wolf was named Echo by schoolchildren, who won a national contest. Weeks later, the beloved icon was shot and killed.
Michael Robinson, spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the incident “illustrates the perils that wolves face” and the importance of federal protection and conservation programs.
Although coyote hunting is legal in Utah, wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife division said the incident is currently under investigation and it is unclear whether the hunter will be criminally charged.
As reported by Endangered Species 2050, the hunter could be “fined up to $50,000 and spend a year in prison.” However, there are provisions for accidental killings.
Robinson believes the Grand Canyon wolf’s death was preventable. Although coyotes and wolves are similar in appearances, there are notable differences. As reported by CBS News, their coloring is quite similar. However, wolves are up to twice the size of coyotes.
“Wolves and coyotes are distinguishable if one pauses for a second before pulling a trigger. There are consequences for pulling the trigger when you don’t know what you’re aiming at. It’s important to have justice for this animal.”
Conservation groups are outraged by Echo’s death. As the Grand Canyon wolf was only 3-years-old, officials hoped she would help revive the region’s wolf population.
— National Post (@nationalpost) February 13, 2015
Wildlife officials agree that education is the key to protecting endangered animals. In the last 33 years, the Center for Biological Diversity has documented 11 cases where hunters inadvertently shot and killed wolves. As a result, officials have implemented programs to help hunters recognize the difference between coyotes and wolves.
Although the program is available in Utah, the hunter who killed the Grand Canyon wolf did not participate. Wildlife officials said their investigation into Echo’s death could take several months.
[Image via Shutterstock]