Recent tests confirmed an animal killed during a coyote hunt in upstate New York last year was a wolf, state environmental officials said Thursday.
The results reviewed this week contradicted an initial analysis that had concluded it was an Eastern coyote, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Environmental officials said it is only the third wolf identified in the wild in the state in 25 years. Wolves are protected in the state as an endangered species.
Officials said it wasn’t known where the animal was from, but that it was likely from the Great Lakes area, although that wolf population isn’t known to have spread beyond Michigan.
They said it could have been a captive animal that escaped or was released.
“Captive wolves released into the wild in New York have been documented in the past,” the agency said.
The wolf was killed in Cherry Valley, Otsego County, about 40 miles west of Albany. After experts reviewing the initial DNA analysis concluded it was a coyote, DNA submitted by the hunter was sent to Princeton University for further testing, which indicated it was likely a male wolf.
Wolves are believed to have been eradicated from the Northeast by the beginning of the 20th century, with the gap filled by coyotes, who have become common in the region. Yet many residents have reported seeing animals they believe more closely resemble the larger wolves, and occasionally hearing howling.
Some advocates say wolves are in New York and New England and could be crossing over the frozen St. Lawrence River while heading south from Canada.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation said it “will continue to work with federal, state and local partners to advance additional conservation actions to continue to build a network of protected landscapes that provide habitat for threatened and endangered species in the state.”