The state is investigating what could be the third confirmed wolf killing in Nebraska in 12 months — and just the fourth in more than a century.
A farmer shot the 85-pound male Monday west of Brainard in Butler County, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission conservation officer who responded suspected it could be a wolf.
But the commission can’t be certain until a tissue sample is tested by a federal laboratory — a process that can take weeks, or even months, said Sam Wilson, the state’s furbearer and carnivore program manager.
That genetic testing could rule out the possibility the animal is a wolf-dog hybrid, which are legal in Nebraska and can be difficult to distinguish from true wolves.
If the lab deems it to be a wolf, it would be the third confirmed animal in Nebraska in almost exactly a year.
On Nov. 16, 2020, a Rock County rancher shot a wolf about 20 miles south of Bassett. And on Jan. 28 — roughly three weeks after the federal government removed gray wolves from the endangered species list — coyote hunters shot a young, 75-pound female north of Fremont.
The most recent wolf killing in Nebraska before that was 2002, near Spalding. And before that, 1913.
But the recent increase isn’t evidence of a resident wolf population, Wilson said.
The animals likely dispersed from their own packs, and walked hundreds of miles searching for new territory; genetic testing of the last two killed linked them to wolves living in the Great Lakes area.
After the wolf was killed last January, the state had planned to donate its pelt to the Nebraska History Museum or use it in the commission’s educational efforts.
The farmer who shot what could be a wolf Monday will keep the carcass, Wilson said.
“The person who harvested it has it. It’s their decision on what to do with it.”
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