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Experts stumped on how gray wolf got to southern Michigan

Wildlife experts have hit a dead end in their quest to determine how a gray wolf arrived in southern Michigan for the first time in more than 100 years.

The wolf was killed in January by a hunter who told authorities that he had mistaken it for a coyote. It was a shock: While gray wolves are common in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — the latest estimate is more than 700 — the state’s southern Lower Peninsula doesn’t offer the proper habitat.

“We just don’t know how it got there,” Brian Roell, wolf expert at the state Department of Natural Resources, said Thursday.

“It could have been natural. It could have been aided by humans,” he said. “If the public does have information we would greatly appreciate their assistance.”

Ice forms on the Great Lakes, making it possible for certain animals to cross the Straits of Mackinac between the peninsulas, but recent winter ice conditions haven’t been firm, Roell said.

There also would be barriers to a wolf moving from elsewhere in the Upper Midwest to southern Michigan, he added.

A possible clue: a mark on a foot showed the wolf had been recently trapped.

“It just makes it more curious,” Roell said.

The wolf was killed in Calhoun County, roughly 300 miles south of the Upper Peninsula, during coyote hunting season. The DNR said it learned about it through social media posts.

Gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act and can be killed only if they are a direct threat to human life, the DNR said.

By the time the agency got involved, the coat had been preserved and stuffed by a taxidermist. The DNR seized the mount.

The agency recently gave its investigation to the Calhoun County prosecutor. An email from The Associated Press seeking comment wasn’t immediately answered.

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