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First Wolf Confirmed In Illinois Since Early 1900s

First Wolf Confirmed In Illinois Since Early 1900s

Experts Confirm Hunter Killed Wild Wolf

HENRY, Ill. — It’s taken seven months, but at least Randy Worker finally
knows that the animal he shot and killed in Marshall County last Dec. 29
was indeed a gray wolf.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that DNA tests have
proved the 92-pound animal was a wolf, and were even able to give genetic
clues as to where it may have come from.

“The DNA exam confirms the wolf originated from the Great Lakes pack,
either in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan,” said Tim Santel, a special
agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “We can say from the
morphological and genetic characteristics it had to be from one of those

Worker, a Henry resident who drives a truck for the Gill Grain Co., has
said he thought he was shooting at a common coyote, rather than a
federally protected wolf.

“I couldn’t tell the difference when I looked at it through my field
glasses or through my rifle scope,” he said.

Gray wolves, which are also known as timber wolves, have slowly increased
in numbers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan since they were listed as
a federally endangered species in 1974. And although they were downgraded
to threatened this spring, they still are protected under federal law in
all states but Alaska.

As a result, a person who kills a wolf can face fines of up to $250,000
and five years in prison.

Worker’s case is unique because wolves were not believed present in
Illinois, officials said.

“At this time, there haven’t been any charges filed,” Santel said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said the animal was the third Great Lakes
wolf known to have wandered well south of its home range in the past two
years. All three may have spent time in Illinois.

In 2001, a wolf that had been fitted with a radio collar in Michigan was
shot in northeastern Missouri. On June 23, biologists found a wolf in
east-central Indiana that had been born in Wisconsin and traveled more
than 400 miles before it was killed, apparently by an automobile.

Biologists believe those wolves dispersed from their packs after reaching

Now that there is an increased possibility of wolves migrating southward,
state and federal agencies are planning to start educational programs for
hunters in Illinois, Indiana and possibly Missouri, Santel said.