Friday, February 3, 2012| Posted:
They don't show up often in the Black Hills. But when they do,
they get people's attention.
Federal wildlife officials are investigating the killing of a wolf
near Custer, as news of the incident spread Thursday through the
sporting community in the Black Hills.
Brad Merrill, a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
service in Pierre, said that he couldn't discuss specifics of the
incident, which remains under investigation. He said samples from
the animal had been shipped to a laboratory in the state of
Washington to determine if it is "pure wolf."
"It can be difficult to distinguish sometimes," Merrill said.
Merrill said wolves are still protected in most areas, including
western South Dakota. And the gray wolf is on the state list of
rare, threatened or endangered species.
But elsewhere there are seasons on wolves, which have been taken
off the endangered species list in states that include Montana and
John Kanta, regional wildlife program manager for the South Dakota
Game, Fish & Parks Department in Rapid City, said that wolves
move through the state occasionally from established populations in
states to the east and west. But there is no evidence of a breeding
pair or pack in the state, Kanta said.
"The last confirmed wolf here in western South Dakota was hit by a
vehicle on I-90 in March of 2006," Kanta said. "It was a male that
weighed about 115 pounds and was estimated at 2 years old."
Testing done on that wolf indicated that it was from populations to
the west of South Dakota, Kanta said.
GF&P gets periodic reports of animals thought to be wolves.
Last Friday, GF&P staffers joined the Rapid City Police
Department in responding to a report of a wolf in the western part
of town. Officers couldn't find signs of a wolf and didn't see the
animal in question, however.
"We're not saying absolutely that it wasn't a wolf. We're saying
that it's pretty unlikely that a wild wolf would wander into the
city," Kanta said. "We certainly believe the gentleman who
contacted us saw something that looked like a wolf."
Sometimes coyotes may be mistaken for wolves, even though they are
typically only about a third as big. And there are wolf-mix dogs or
dogs that resemble wolves that also can be confusing, Kanta
Wolves are controversial in other states, and of particular concern
to livestock producers. Wolves can be aggressive predators on
"There's no doubt that wolves can be pretty hard on livestock
producers," Kanta said. "I'm of the opinion that wolves would be
even more controversial in South Dakota than lions."