An 89-pound female gray wolf was killed in Utah last month in a strangulation snare intended for a coyote.
She was the second wolf killed in Utah in less than a year and the third in the southern Rockies.
The most recent killing occurred around Nov. 7 in northeastern Utah, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The previous wolf killed in Utah was shot on Dec. 28, 2014 by a hunter who claimed he thought it was a coyote. That wolf, nicknamed Echo, had been the first wolf documented at the Grand Canyon since the 1940s.
The third wolf was killed in Colorado on April 29 by a hunter making the same claim. All three wolves had migrated south from the Northern Rockies wolf population found in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
An analysis conducted by the Center for Biological Diversity found that since 1981, more than 50 dispersing wolves have been killed as they tried to expand across a greater portion of their natural range.
“Utah should end its war on coyotes, which has had a deadly effect on at least two wolves that have wandered into the state,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The loss of these three wolves is yet another grim reminder that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to do more to protect dispersing wolves and foster further wolf recovery.”
Utah offers a bounty on coyotes, reportedly to increase the number of deer. Wildlife officials point to habitat loss, drought, and less forage as probable reasons for decline in deer populations.
The most recent wolf killing occurred in a portion of Utah in which wolves were stripped of their Endangered Species Act protections through a rider on a must-pass budget bill in 2011.
“Ongoing persecution of wolves is one of the prime reasons they continue to need Endangered Species Act protections in Utah and across the country,” Robinson said.
The Center for Biological Diversity points to scientific studies show that wolves benefit their ecosystems.
For example, wolves keep elk moving, thereby limiting browsing along streams and allowing saplings to mature into trees that provide shade for fish habitat and birds.
Wolves provide carrion for scavenging animals such as eagles, wolverines and weasels. Wolves benefit pronghorn through killing coyotes, which unlike wolves, inordinately focus their hunting on pronghorn fawns.