Iowa is one wolf shorter.
After a coyote hunter killed a wolf-like animal near Fairbank in February, the state's Department of Natural Resources opened an investigation to determine the origins of the animal, WHO-TV reports. According to The Gazette, DNA testing recently confirmed the slain animal was a gray wolf.
Iowa may have only lost one wolf, but in a state that hasn't seen a Canis lupus in 89 years, the change in population is rather significant.
Aside from being a protected species in the state, the gray wolf has also not been documented in Iowa since 1925, the outlet notes. Most of the larger predators, including black bears and mountain lions, disappeared from the state decades ago, but recent sightings suggest the animals are returning to the area, according to media reports.
In a 2012 report, Iowa's Department of Natural Resources speculated that roving wolves spotted in Missouri and Illinois may eventually cross state lines. However, with the resurgence also comes a warning to hunters: Look before you shoot.
"They are protected animals. We know they are here. Make sure of your target. If in doubt, don’t shoot," DNR furbearer specialist Vince Evelsizer, a furbearer specialist at Iowa's Department of Natural Resources, told The Gazette.
The hunter who shot the wolf will reportedly not be penalized.