Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wolf found dead near Winona, Minnesota

By Jeff Dankert / Winona Daily News

A gray wolf that likely wandered into Minnesota from Wisconsin was found dead just south of Winona. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Eric Nelson said Tuesday that the 80-pound male, recovered a week ago on U.S. Highway 61, appeared to be a gray wolf.

Ron Refsnider, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist in St. Paul, said it would be rare but not surprising to find a wolf in Winona. “Wisconsin has wolf packs in the Fort McCoy and Black River State Forest areas, only about 50 miles from Winona,” he said. “Individual wolves could easily make the trip from Ft. McCoy to Winona in a week or so.”

Wolves can cross the river when it’s frozen and are capable swimmers.

Biologists extracted a tooth and tissue and will send them to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources laboratory in Grand Rapids. Biologists will test the tissue for DNA and the tooth for age, Nelson said. Biologists believe it is 2 years old.

A couple from Ettrick, Wis., found the wolf April 26 dead on the highway three miles southeast of Winona. DNR Area Biologist Don Ramsden of Winona said the dimensions and color of the animal indicate it is most likely a gray wolf, and it appeared in good health.

Refsnider said this wolf likely was exploring a new area for suitable habitat and a mate.

Gray wolves are a threatened species in Minnesota, an endangered species in Wisconsin and are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed delisting the wolf in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota because it has exceeded recovery goals for several years.

A boy shot a wolf in 2002 in Houston County while deer hunting, thinking it was a coyote. That wolf is displayed at the Houston Nature Center.

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