Thursday, March 31, 2011
Missouri 104-Pound Coyote Turns Out To Be A Wolf After All!
Remember the "104-pound" coyote that was supposedly shot in Missouri this past November? Well, as Paul Harvey would say... "Here's the rest of the story!"
Coyote Or Wolf?
The string of sightings began Nov. 13 with the shooting of what appeared to be an unusually large coyote in Carroll County. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) sought DNA tests to clarify the animal’s identity. Scientists sometimes can determine where an animal came from by comparing its DNA with DNA samples from animals of the same species from different areas.
The first round of testing compared DNA from the 104-pound canine to that of western timber wolves. The tests showed a poor match with western wolves but did confirm the presence of coyote DNA. However, further testing linked the animal to timber wolves.
“Coyotes seldom get bigger than 30 pounds in Missouri,” said MDC Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer. “A coyote weighing more than 100 pounds just didn’t seem credible. Wolves are known to interbreed with domestic dogs and coyotes, so we had further testing done to look for evidence of that, and we found it.”
The second round of DNA tests compared the Carroll County canine’s DNA with samples from timber wolves from the Great Lake states of Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan. This time, the tests found a close match. Wolves from that area are known to have coyote DNA in their genes. This accounts for the match with coyote DNA in the initial tests.
“Lots of people were skeptical when we announced results from the first round of testing,” said Beringer. “We were too. But when you are trying to unravel a biological puzzle like this one, you take things one step at a time and go where the science leads you. This animal appeared to be very different from the western wolf samples it was compared with, but when we compared it with wolf DNA from the Great Lake states we found a match.”
When asked how a Great Lakes wolf got to Missouri, Beringer noted that wolves from northern states have turned up in Missouri before. The most recent case occurred in 2001. It involved an 80-pound timber wolf killed by a landowner in Grundy County. The man mistook the wolf for a coyote, but discovered his mistake when he found the animal wore a radio collar and an ear tag linking it to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, more than 600 miles away. He notified MDC, which was able to confirm its origin with Michigan officials.