MONTEVIDEO -- There are a lot of people crying wolf in Chippewa County, and they could be right.
An 81-pound canine killed in a collision with a motor vehicle on March 26 might be a timber wolf and is definitely not a coyote.
The young male animal certainly looks like a wolf, but only genetic tests can tell if it is a wolf or a wolf-dog hybrid, according to Dave Trauba, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources manager of the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Area.
He said it will take some time before the testing is completed and the results known.
The motorist struck the wolf on her way to work in the morning on Minnesota Highway 7, roughly halfway between Montevideo and Watson.
There are a lot of motor vehicle and animal strikes along this stretch of road, according to the resident who lives near the site and Trauba.
The motorist believed she had struck a coyote and reported it to the Chippewa County Sheriff's office, according to Sheriff Stacy Tufto.
It wasn't long before a passerby picked up the carcass. He was beginning to skin it for its pelt, but the size and appearance of the animal led him to believe it might be a wolf and he contacted authorities.
Minnesota DNR Conservation Officer Ed Picht of Montevideo was among those asked to examine it. Picht said the animal's large size convinced him right away that it is not a coyote. A large, adult coyote might reach 35 pounds, he pointed out.
There are people who keep wolf-dog hybrids, and a resident within a couple miles of the site of the accident has been known to keep exotic animals. Trauba said he was contacted. He said he has not had a wolf-dog hybrid escape.
The nearest known pack of wild timber wolves is located at Camp Ripley, some 140 miles north of Montevideo. Trauba cautions against reading too much into the demise of this animal near Montevideo, even if tests should show that it is a wolf.
Individual timber wolves are known to migrate long distances.
Radio-collared wolves from the Ely area have been tracked all the way to central Wisconsin and back.
There was also a case of a radio-collared wolf from Minnesota being shot north of Lake Winnipeg in central Manitoba, Canada. A timber wolf of undetermined origin was also killed in a collision with a motor vehicle in northeast Missouri.
With that much movement occurring, Trauba said it really would not be surprising if one animal had the misfortune of being struck by a motor vehicle.
Trauba said he does not believe the habitat is available in the Minnesota River Valley to support an active wolf colony.
If this is indeed a timber wolf, it is probably the first to be reported in the valley in more than 100 years, he said.
Wolves are a protected species. It is against the law to shoot or deliberately harm them no matter where they might appear, according to Picht.