Hunter accidentally kills endangered gray wolf while hunting coyote

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Coyote and gray wolf
This stock photo shows a coyote on the left and an endangered gray wolf on the right.

BEAVER, UT -- A hunter could face a huge fine for mistaking an endangered species for a coyote.

The hunter was looking for coyotes in near Beaver, Utah when he spotted a 70-pound gray wolf. The hunter opened fire, killing the 3-year-old female, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Gray wolfs are federally protected in that part of Utah under the Endangered Species Act.

"We are still investigating," Division of Wildlife Resources director Greg Sheehan told the paper. "It seems initially that it was a case of mistaken identity."

Still, the hunter could face citations for killing the animal. The Fish and Wildlife Service is now conducting the investigation.

Utah offers a $50 bounty for coyotes under the Mule Deer Preservation Act.

According to National Geographic, Coyotes are between 20 and 50 pounds on average. Gray wolfs are between 60 and 135 pounds on average.