By Pete Thomas/GrindTv
The wolf was photographed recently, but at the time of this post, as the news was breaking, the photograph had not been made public and the sighting had not been officially confirmed.
However, the Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday announced the sighting in a press release.
The wolf was wearing what seemed to be an inactive radio collar, and the animal is believed to have dispersed from a pack in the northern Rocky Mountains.
The last-known wolf in Grand Canyon National Park was killed in the 1940s.
The Center for Biological Diversity points out that this wolf is protected under the Endangered Species Act, and cautioned hunters and ranchers against trying to kill or harm the animal.
“I'm absolutely thrilled that a wolf managed to travel so far to reclaim the Grand Canyon as a home for wolves,” said Michael Robinson, a wolf advocate with the environmental group. “This wolf's journey starkly highlights the fact that wolf recovery is still in its infancy and that these important and magnificent animals continue to need Endangered Species Act protections.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a sport by Reuters, is going to attempt to capture the wolf.
If the predator is from the northern Rockies, where wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s, it would have ranged hundreds of miles to reach the North Rim.
Such a journey is reminiscent of one made by an Oregon wolf named OR7, which became famous after traveling across Oregon into California in late 2011.
OR7, a young male seeking a mate, became the first known wolf in California since 1924. He has since returned to Oregon, where he found a mate and is now raising a family.
There was speculation that the wolf seen on the North Rim might have been a Mexican gray wolf, as opposed to a western gray wolf.
But those who have viewed the photograph have said the animal looked too large to be a Mexican gray wolf. The sighting comes as the Obama Administration is pushing to remove protections for western gray wolves.
Stated Kim Crumbo, conservation director for Grand Canyon Wildlands Council: “In the early 1900s over 30 wolves on the North Kaibab, including Grand Canyon National Park, were killed by government hunters. "The possibility that a determined wolf could make it to the Canyon region is cause for celebration, and we must insist that every effort be taken to protect this brave wanderer.”
A spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, according to Reuters, said the group decided to announce the sighting to make people aware of the wolf's presence, so it won’t be mistaken as a coyote and possibly shot.
–Generic gray wolf image is courtesy of Center for Biological Diversity