During the week of October 5th (2014) a turkey hunter photographed a wolf like canine in the North Kiabab National Forest just North of the Grand Canyon National Park. He sent sent the photographs to Arizona Game and Fish Department to try and determine the species.
Since that time numerous additional sightings have been reported of the collared gray wolf like animal, including the animal being both photographed and a short video clip of the wolf taken just outside Grand Canyon park on October 8th. That sighting was by Virginia tourists Samantha Bray and Sarah Nissen who observed the wolf trotting along the road beside them before it crossed the road in front of their car and off to a tree line in the distance where it appeared to be eating on a carcass.
The Fish and Wildlife Service issued an emergency permit earlier in November to allow researchers to capture and conduct DNA testing on the creature, which observers said resembled a gray wolf.
Officials with Fish and Wildlife, along with those from the Arizona Game and Fish Department and National Park Service, were unable to detect a radio signal from a collar worn by the animal.
Biologists "attempted to capture the animal to collect blood and replace the radio collar," said Humphrey on Friday. "Those efforts were unsuccessful and have been suspended due to cold weather, as our primary concern is the welfare of this animal."
Instead, genetic tests of the animals scat confirmed it to be a female Rocky Mountain gray wolf after testing was done on feces collected Nov. 2.
"Any future capture efforts will be for collar and transmitter replacement, and the wolf will be released on site," Humphrey said.
"The lab may be able to determine the wolf's individual identification by comparing its DNA profile with that of previously captured and sampled northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf females," he said in a news release. "This analysis will take several weeks to several months."
"The DNA results indicate this wolf traveled at least 450 miles from an area in the northern Rocky Mountains to northern Arizona," said Benjamin Tuggle, southwest regional director for FWS. "Wolves, particularly young wolves, can be quite nomadic dispersing great distances across the landscape. Such behavior is not unusual for juveniles as they travel to find food or another mate."
Humphrey said that the "confirmation clarifies that this gray wolf is fully protected under the Endangered Species Act."