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Wolf-Like Animal Seen Near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

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Federal wildlife officials are monitoring a wolf-like animal roaming forest land near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, if confirmed to be a gray wolf, it would be the first such animal seen in the area in 70 years.

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say the animal could be a dispersed member of a northern Rocky Mountain population. But they’re working to determine whether it is, in fact, a gray wolf or a canine hybrid. Biologists will collect droppings from the animal for DNA analysis to determine its exact species.

Sherry Barrett is the coordinator for the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.

“Until we actually have something concrete though we don’t know for sure that it is a wolf. It could be a wolf hybrid or some other canid. So we are waiting for some kind of determination,” Barrett says.

Barrett says that, based on its appearance, the animal isn’t likely to be a Mexican gray wolf, like those reintroduced in eastern Arizona and New Mexico. Barrett also says the animal is wearing a collar similar to those used in wolf recovery efforts in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

“Wolves have the capabilities to move long distances and if this was in fact was a wolf that came from the northern Rocky Mountains it would have been at least a 500-mile straight-line distance. It’s possible, yeah. They have made long distance movements in the past,” Barrett says.

Gray wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The animals were almost entirely exterminated in the lower 48 states during the 20th century. Wolves haven’t been seen in the Grand Canyon area since the 1940s. 

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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