A state wildlife expert is investigating whether a dead animal found in the Eldorado Wildlife Area is a wolf.
The decomposed animal was stumbled upon by an area resident who was walking his dogs Wednesday near Heinrich Road in the town of Lamartine.
Results from DNA samples should reveal the identity of the animal, possibly a gray wolf or wolf hybrid, said Adrian Wydeven, mammalian ecologist and wolf expert with the state Department of Natural Resources.
“The feet look small, and the way the animal was scrunched up, it was hard to see, but the features do look very wolf-like,” Wydeven said.
Alan Erickson, DNR conservation warden for central Fond du Lac County, examined the animal firsthand and sent photos to Wydeven. He said it was partially frozen and looked like a large coyote or hybrid dog.
“My suspicion is that the animal may have been shot and then dumped here based on some of the evidence I found,” he said.
Some fibers, possibly from a tarp, were found on the animal’s fur.
If it was a coyote, the hunting season is continuous, Erickson said.
It’s not unusual for a lone wolf to travel long distances, Wydeven said. He cited a case from several years ago in which a gray wolf traveled from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Johnson Creek (near Jefferson) in a matter of six weeks.
He said cases of hybridization resulting from coyotes breeding with dogs do occur, but they are usually born out of the normal season and don’t survive.
State landowners will soon be able to hunt and kill wolves that cause problems on their property now that the predator is no longer an endangered species.
Wisconsin has about 782 wolves, and the sustainable threshold is about 350, said Kurt Theide, land division administrator for the DNR.
State officials welcomed the federal announcement as long overdue and pledged to keep wolf numbers healthy while allowing people to kill those caught assaulting farm animals or pets.
The state might allow hunting and trapping wolves, although no seasons have been set and the federal government will monitor the population for five years.
Gov. Scott Walker has charged the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with implementing a state wolf management plan by Feb. 1 that allows controlled kills and limited hunting on qualifying private properties where the animals are said to have become a nuisance.