Wolf or coyote? Wildlife mystery in Nevada solved with DNA testing


Three wolves roaming the mountains in northeastern Nevada would have been notable for a state without an established wolf population. But one recent sighting of a wolf-like animal trio in that area turned out to be a false alarm, after an investigation and a round of genetic tests revealed that the creatures are almost surely coyotes, the Nevada Department of Wildlife said.
Coyotes are common throughout Nevada, including in some of its major cities. Wolves are not, and they are rarely seen in the state despite populating surrounding regions in Idaho, Oregon and Northern California. Nevada wildlife officials told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2017 that a lone wolf was confirmed to have been spotted within state lines — the first in almost a century.
So, when a government-contracted helicopter crew flying over the rural ranching area Merritt Mountain in March saw three animals that looked like wolves, their potential discovery spawned a full-fledged probe. The wildlife department said its own biologists conducted further helicopter searches and surveys on the ground to collect hair, fecal and urine samples believed to belong to the mysterious creatures. The samples underwent DNA analyses at two independent laboratories and results showed with 99.9% certainty that they came from coyotes, officials said.



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