A rare grey wolf, the first of her species to be seen in the area in more than 70 years, who was shot dead after a US poacher mistook the animal for a coyote has been confirmed as a female named Echo.
The three-year-old wolf was the same animal spotted near the Grand Canyon in October and November before her death in December last year.
DNA testing confirmed it was the same animal, named Echo by schoolchildren in a national competition, with wildlife rights groups calling her killing shameful.
“It's very sad,” conservation advocate with the Centre for Biological Diversity Michael Robinson, told Mail Online.
Echo had roamed more than 500 miles in her life, searching for a mate. Conservationists had tagged her with an electronic collar, enabling them to track her movements.
The hunter, who has not been named, claims he mistook Echo for a coyote responsible and immediately reported the killing to local authorities when he realised his mistake.
Although hunting and shooting coyotes is legal, wolves are listed under the US Endangered Species Act, which bans killing certain animals without a special permit.
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Although the two species have similar colouring, wolves are usually larger than coyotes and have longer legs, bigger feet, rounder ears and snouts.
The identity of Echo was confirmed by geneticists at the University of Idaho who compared DNA samples taken from the body with scat samples collected after the animal was seen near the Grand Canyon in November.
The death is particularly upsetting for animal campaigners as Echo was the first wolf seen in the Canyon since an extensive eradication programme during the 1940s.
The Centre for Biological Diversity said there have been 11 incidents since 1981 when hunters have claimed to have killed wolves after mistaking them for another animal.
It remains unclear what – if any – penalties the hunter could face.Reuse content