Nevada Wildlife Officials Investigating Possible Wolf Sighting in the State

Gray wolves once roamed most of the United States, but hunting and habitat loss brought them to the brink by the middle of the 20th century. Since they were listed under the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s, their population and range have increased, and they may have recently been spotted in a state without an established population.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) announced last week that three wolves are believed to have been spotted in Elko County, located in the northeastern corner of the state. A moose collaring crew was in a helicopter near Merritt Mountain when the pilot saw the animals in mid-March.

Closeup of wolf profile

Soon after, NDOW biologists reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to confirm the sighting. The biologists studied tracks in the area, which were headed in the direction of the Idaho border but were lost in the snow. NDOW says the print dimensions matched those of wolves. They also set out to collect scat and fur and sent samples for DNA testing.

NDOW Director Alan Jenne says, “We are doing all we can to gather information regarding this sighting and will keep the public updated as we learn more information.”

He adds that wolves are not known to live in Nevada, though they may sometimes briefly cross into the state from neighboring states with wolf populations. The last time a wolf was spotted in Nevada was in 2016; it was found to be an offspring from California’s Shasta Pack.

Wolf in snow looks at camera

According to the USFWS, Nevada was part of the gray wolf’s historical range, which consisted of most of the country. Their range and population plummeted following extensive hunting and loss of habitat, but, after receiving protections, they’ve been able to expand their footprint. These days, they’re found in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, and a small part of Utah. There’s also been a recent reintroduction in Colorado.

Wildlife advocates are enthusiastic about the possible Nevada sighting.

Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, says, “Wolves are a vital part of healthy mountain ecosystems in the West, and there’s plenty of room for them to thrive in Nevada… Wolves are symbols of the wildness of the West, and Nevada is as wild as it gets. It’s truly inspiring to watch as wolves continue to recover under the protections of the Endangered Species Act.”

Alert wolf stares into distance
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