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DNR says hunter who thought he shot large coyote actually shot a gray wolf

Gray wolves haven’t been seen in that area in years, the state says

CALHOUN COUNTY — Though a Michigan hunter reported that he killed a large coyote in Calhoun County in January during a legal hunt, subsequent genetic tests by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources revealed the animal to be a gray wolf.

Michigan’s known wolf population is located in the Upper Peninsula. The department continues to search for wolves in the Lower Peninsula but has found only a few signs of wolf presence in that part of Michigan since the state’s wolf population became reestablished in the 1980s.

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This particular wolf was observed when a hunter, engaged in legal coyote hunting accompanied by a guide, said he encountered what was initially believed to be a large coyote. The hunter shot the animal, which weighed 84 pounds. Eastern coyotes typically weigh between 25 pounds and 40 pounds.

A series of genetic tests on the animal confirmed that it was a gray wolf, a species not sighted in that part of Michigan since the likely extirpation of wolves from the state in the early part of the 20th century.

Once present throughout Michigan, wolves are now confined almost exclusively to the Upper Peninsula.

The presence of this wolf in Calhoun County remains a matter of investigation by the DNR. The department does not suspect the animal was part of an established population in the southern Lower Peninsula.


The public does not need to be concerned about broader wolf presence in the county or the Lower Peninsula. Data collected on collared wolves in Michigan have shown the animals can travel thousands of miles, in some cases far beyond their known range.

”This is an unusual case, and the DNR is actively delving into the matter to learn more about this particular animal’s origin,” said Brian Roell, large carnivore specialist for the DNR. “While rare, instances of wolves traversing vast distances have been documented, including signs of wolves in recent decades in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.”

The DNR highlighted several previous instances of wolf presence in the northern Lower Peninsula, including:

  • In October 2004, a wolf originally collared in the eastern Upper Peninsula was captured and killed by a coyote trapper in Presque Isle County.
  • During winter track surveys in 2011 and 2015, track evidence consistent with wolflike animals was observed in Cheboygan and Emmet counties.
  • In 2014, biologists from the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians captured a wolf on a trail camera during an eagle survey. DNA analysis of scat collected at the site confirmed the animal as a wolf.

Targeted winter track surveys in the northern Lower Peninsula in 2019 yielded no evidence of wolves in that part of Michigan. The department plans to conduct another targeted track survey in 2025 with resident assistance.


Wolves in Michigan are currently an endangered species by federal court order. Wolves can be killed only if they are a direct and immediate threat to human life. Livestock owners affected by wolf depredation can receive compensation for their losses. Hunting wolves while they are on the endangered species list is prohibited.

For more information on Michigan’s wolf population, visit

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