Agencies complete investigation of 2014 wolf killing in Beaver Mountains

DENVER — A coyote hunter who shot a protected gray wolf near Beaver last year will not face criminal charges.

The hunter shot and killed the wolf near the south end of the Beaver Mountains, a few miles outside of Beaver, and contacted the Division of Wildlife Resources as soon as he realized the animal he killed could have been a wolf.

An investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Department of Justice determined the man was legally hunting coyotes near Beaver on Dec. 28, 2014, when he mistook a collared female gray wolf for a coyote, according to a press statement released by Fish and Wildlife.

The Endangered Species Act has criminal penalties for “any person who knowingly violates any provision …” of the Act.

Authorities determined the incident resulted from misidentification rather than the intentional killing of a protected species. The law allows for authorities to use discretion in cases where a protected species is misidentified during otherwise lawful activity, the statement said.

“The hunter reported his mistake immediately,” Steve Oberholtzer, Fish and Wildlife mountain-prairie region’s special agent in charge of law enforcement, said. “This is a good reminder to all hunters to make sure they identify their target before pulling the trigger.”

The female wolf, known to researchers as 914F, had previously been seen by members of the public near the Grand Canyon earlier in 2014.

Geneticists from the University of Idaho Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics compared the DNA from the collared female with DNA left behind by the wolf spotted near the Grand Canyon. They concluded the female was 914F, which was collared January 8, 2014 near Cody, Wyoming.

Most wolves typically leave the pack they were born in by age 3 and seek out a mate to start a new pack or join another existing pack.

These dispersing wolves have been sighted over 500 miles away in neighboring states in the Northern Rockies, the West Coast and the western Great Lakes regions.

One GPS-collared wolf traveled a total of almost 3,000 miles in the seven months prior to being killed by a banned poison in Rio Blanco County, Colorado in 2009, a distance of roughly 400 miles from her original pack.

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