An endangered rare gray wolf that roamed the Grand Canyon for the first time in 70 years was shot and killed by a hunter.
The female, named Echo, was being tracked by gobsmacked wildlife scientists after being spotted wandering around Arizona.
But after making a 500-mile journey to Utah, the lone wolf disappeared from radar until it was revealed a hunter shot and killed her after mistaking her for a coyote.
Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth, said: “It’s tragic that Echo traveled over 500 miles (800 km) only to be cut down by an incredibly irresponsible coyote hunter.”
Authorities have not released the name of the culprit, who in December reported to Utah wildlife officers that he had accidentally shot and killed a radio-collared wolf near the border with Arizona.
It is illegal to kill wolves without a special permit in the Lower 48 states where most wolves are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Wolves in just two states – Idaho and Montana – are not on a federal list of endangered and threatened species and can be legally hunted.
Federal wildlife officials said an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Echo was the first gray wolf to appear in the national park in Arizona since the 1940s, when the last of the creatures there was killed as part of an extensive eradication campaign, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
The carcass of the wolf was confiscated by federal authorities, who submitted it to the University of Idaho for genetic testing.
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SOURCE: The Mirror, David Raven