Over the past week, there's been some debate as to how an endangered Gray Wolf made its way into southern Michigan, AND how it ended up confused as a coyote, was shot, and killed.

News outlets have been talking mostly about the animal's death, and the odd questions surrounding it, but there's one question that people still can't seem to answer - How did it get there?

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What Happened?

While out hunting for coyotes in early April, an unidentified hunter said he came across what he THOUGHT was a massive coyote, and shot it. In Michigan, there is no limit on the number of coyotes you can kill, and don't even have to be reported.

However, this was no typical "coyote." The animal was more than 80 pounds, and twice the size of even a larger-sized coyote. The hunter took the animal with him, and was only ever discovered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources because he was posting about it on social media, posing with the animal in photos.

The DNR took notice, and decided to take samples of the animal, because if it WAS truly a coyote that large, they wanted to record the data. But if it turned out to be something else, then they needed to investigate.

Gray Wolf vs. Coyote

Unfortunately for the hunter, it turned out to be something else.

The Hunter had bagged the wolf in Calhoun County, which is in southern Michigan - FAR from where any other wolves live in Michigan.

How Did a Wolf Get to Southern Michigan?

So while the courts and legal system settle what will happen with this hunter, the question now presents itself... HOW did this wolf get here?

The only population of Wolves in Michigan live in the Upper Peninsula, and RARELY make the quick cross at the Mackinac Straits into the upper parts of the Lower Peninsula. DNR specialists say it's difficult for wolves to survive below the Straits, because there isn't enough large game - deer, elk, moose, etc. - for them to survive on.

But even stranger is, there hasn't been a wolf seen this far south in Michigan in more than a century. DNR specialists say wolves ARE capable of traveling long distances, but on its own, away from a pack, and nearly 300 miles from the rest of the wolves in the state is HIGHLY unlikely... "but not impossible."

Gray Wolf Habitat

Theories range from it miraculously making the trip without being detected or hit by a vehicle while traveling south. But this scenario would also mean that the wolf would have crossed the Mackinac Straits before 2022, since the Straits haven't completely frozen over since then. It could have also made the trip AROUND Lake Michigan, but that would have been a massive undertaking to make the trip undetected.

The other option is a bit more sad, that someone physically brought the animal into the lower peninsula. Whether it be someone capturing one to eventually make a pet, or simply to do so, it unfortunately seems like the most plausible answer.

At this time, no other wolves have been reported in the southern part of the state, however, the DNR is keeping an eye on southern Michigan for any signs of additional wolves.

Update: More Animals Added to Michigan's Year-Round Hunting List

The Michigan DNR has added the following animals to the state's year-round hunting list. Land owners may kill these animals on their property with no special permits required.

Gallery Credit: Lauren Gordon

Michigan's Mandatory Hunting Violation Penalties

Thinking of poaching? Don't. Not sure if you're breaking the law? Check with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) (for hunting laws, click here). Here are 5 violations that come with mandatory penalties, including hefty fines and significant time behind bars.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

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