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Another gray wolf has perished in Utah from lethal force targeting coyotes.
On Nov. 7, a private trapper discovered an 89-pound female dead in a neck snare he set west of Randolph near the Idaho state line, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
"We're pretty sure it's a wolf and we sent out a hair sample to a lab to be sure. At this point it's an open investigation," said Kim Hersey, DWR's mammal conservation coordinator. Officials will use genetic testing to rule out the possibility that the uncollared carcass is that of a dog-wolf hybrid.
The death comes less than a year after a pair of hunters shot a wolf outside Beaver after mistaking the collared animal for a coyote.
The gray wolf remains a protected species under the Endangered Species Act, but the Randolph animal died in the small slice of northern Utah included in wolves' Northern Rockies recovery zone spanning parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Gray wolves have been delisted for much of this region, thanks to their successful re-introduction 20 years ago around Yellowstone, so the animal killed outside Randolph was not protected under federal law.
This killing prompted wildlife advocates to renew criticism of Utah policies that not only allow, but encourage indiscriminate killing of coyotes, which bear some resemblance to the gray wolf.
"Wolves that happen to move into Utah or Colorado will most likely end up dead and hence we won't have wolves established in either of those states," said Kirk Robinson, executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy. "It's a real issue."
The wolf that died outside Beaver last year had been observed that fall on the Grand Canyon's North Rim and was later dubbed Echo following a naming contest. It had roamed all the way from Wyoming, then back into Utah, where it took a .223-caliber round on Dec. 28 and was finished off with a pistol shot to the head.
Federal prosecutors declined to charge the Beaver men who killed Echo or another hunter who shot a wolf last spring near Kremmling, Colo. In both cases, federal authorities concluded the hunters believed they were drawing a bead on coyotes, which hunters may kill without a license or bag limit, and regardless of the season.
Wolves' pesky, smaller cousins have proliferated in Utah thanks in part to the elimination of the top dog from the landscape. Utah taxpayers now subsidize coyote slaughter through a $50 bounty established in 2012 in the name of protecting mule deer. Thousands of coyotes are trapped, shot and poisoned each year, yet their numbers remain strong in many places.
Coyote hunting contests remain common in some Western states, despite intense opposition from some wildlife and animal-welfare groups. A month before Echo's death, Beaver hosted a coyote "calling" contest in which contestants killed 35 animals and turned in the carcasses for points.
The ninth annual Beaver Utah Coyote Calling Contest will take place Saturday.