A hunter in Missouri has taken would could be a record-sized coyote.
Or it might be a wolf. Or it might even be a wolf-coyote hybrid.
No one is exactly sure what the animal is, which is why the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) plans on conducting DNA testing on the animal to determine its species.
The animal was shot in Wayne County by a landowner last month. Once the hunter saw up close just how large the "coyote" was, he thought the animal could be a wolf so he contacted the MDC to surrender the animal as wolves are a protected species in Missouri.
MDC Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer explained the reasoning behind the DNA testing to the Dexter Daily Statesman: "Because of the great variety in the bodies of dogs, coyotes and wolves, it's important that we get DNA evidence to ensure correct identification of the animal," Beringer said. "We have DNA signatures from all captive wolves and wolf-hybrids in the state. We also compare DNA from the animal in question with DNA of wolves around the country to help determine the origin of the animal."
Beringer's initial examination of the animal concluded that it was a two-year-old, 80-pound female canine. It did not contain a microchip, tag, tattoo, or any other markings which would identify it as an escaped captive animal.
Although there is no known breeding population of wolves in Missouri, Beringer says occasionally wolves end up in the state.