GRAND CANYON, Arizona – Wildlife officials have confirmed that a wolf-like animal seen roaming the land north of the Grand Canyon is a female Rocky Mountain gray wolf. Genetic tests of feces found by biologists identified the nature and gender of the animal that has been seen and photographed in the area since early October, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The confirmation also affirms that the gray wolf is fully protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Sightings of the wolf have indicated she was previously outfitted with a radio collar that appears to be inoperable, as officials haven’t been able to detects a signal from it.
USFWS biologists have attempted to capture the wolf but have thus far been unsuccessful.
“Those efforts were unsuccessful and have been suspended due to cold weather, as our primary concern is the welfare of this animal,” the USFWS release stated. “Any future capture efforts will be for collar and transmitter replacement, and the wolf will be released on site.”
As DNA results have confirmed the female wolf is from the northern Rocky Mountain population, it also confirms she has traveled a distance of 450 miles south.
“The DNA results indicate this wolf traveled at least 450 miles from an area in the northern Rocky Mountains to northern Arizona,” Benjamin Tuggle, USFWS Southwest regional director, said. “Wolves, particularly young wolves, can be quite nomadic dispersing great distances across the landscape. Such behavior is not unusual for juveniles as they travel to find food or another mate.”
Gray wolves have not been observed in the area for more than 70 years, when the last of the animals were removed through a decades-long predator eradication campaign. This female gray wolf is not associated with the Mexican wolf population, a subspecies of gray wolves that are found in Arizona and New Mexico south of Interstate 40.
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