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Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) Occurrences in the Dakotas


Since 1981, 10 mortalities of wolves were documented, five of them in 1991-92 (Table 1; Figure 1). Eight of the 10 were mistakenly shot as coyotes (Canis latrans) according to law enforcement reports. One wolf was apparently beaten to death after being chased by dogs and the remaining wolf was shot by a hunter after it allegedly attacked the horse he was riding. Based on skull analyses, eight of the 10 animals were <2-years old (R. M. Nowak, pers. comm.). Eight were gray and one (wolf 10; Table 1) was black; the color of the remaining wolf (wolf 3; Table 1) was not recorded. The one wolf for which a credible weight was recorded weighed 46.4 kg (wolf 10; Table 1). All but one were killed in winter, and all were believed to be alone when killed. Six were male and four were female.

The animals were killed 46-561 km (X = 297) from the nearest known breeding range. Seven wolves were believed to have come from Minnesota and one from Canada, based on skull morphometrics. The probable region of origin of two wolves (wolves 3 and 10; Table 1) was not determined. However, wolf 10 was large (46.4 kg) and of a black color phase, characteristics common of wolves in Manitoba and Montana. These two wolves were killed 561 km and 343 km from the Manitoba wolf distribution, 644 km and 474 km from the Minnesota distribution, and, 756 km and 740 km from the Montana distribution, respectively.

The 10 mortalities occurred in nine different counties. Four of the mortalities were concentrated in a relatively small area in southeastern North Dakota/northeastern South Dakota (1174 km2; Figure 1). Counties where wolves were killed averaged 57% cropland, 36% pastureland, and 1% woodland (Table 1) and had road densities averaging 0.71 km/km2 and human densities averaging 3.5/km2.

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