A rare gray wolf discovery in New York has helped local scientists understand more about the endangered animal and its experience in the Empire State.

In 2021, a wolf was killed in Cherry Valley in Otsego County, NY. While the gray wolf is both federally and locally protected, the animal was originally mistaken for a coyote. Luckily, scientists were able to use this unfortunate situation to further understand the lives of wolves that make their way to New York State. Here's what their analysis found.

The skull of the wolf found in Otsego County, NY (NYS DEC via Facebook)
The skull of the wolf found in Otsego County, NY (NYS DEC via Facebook)
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Gray Wolf Killed in New York State

"DEC scientists use a variety of tools to study New York’s animals. The discovery of a wolf killed in Otsego County in December 2021 presented our experts with an interesting opportunity to advance their work", began a post from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC). Partnering with the New York State Museum, the NYS DEC was able to study the wolf's coat, teeth, and even bone composition to make some interesting discoveries.

The bone, teeth, and even fur of the wolf was analyzed to better understand its life (NYS DEC via Facebook)
The bone, teeth, and even fur of the wolf was analyzed to better understand its life (NYS DEC via Facebook)
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Gray Wolf Analysis in New York State

"Based on the principle ‘you are what you eat,’ the carbon and nitrogen isotopes found in an animal’s fur and bones can show the type of diet an animal has had throughout its life", says the NYS DEC. Analysis of this specific wolf showed that it had consumed an entirely "wild diet". This is good news for several reasons.

The "Good" News About the Gray Wolf Killed in Otsego County, NY

First, the NYS DEC's findings mean that the gray wolf killed in Otsego County was not preying on domestic animals or finding food left behind by humans. Furthermore, it shows that the wolf was not raised domestically or ever kept by people, as wolves in these types of situations are normally fed either dog food or farm-raised animals like chickens.

Comparison between a wolf and coyote skull (NYS DEC via Facebook)
Comparison between a wolf and coyote skull (NYS DEC via Facebook)
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Confusing Wolves for Coyotes in New York

Many New Yorkers expressed their dismay that an animal so rarely seen in the state was killed accidentally. Further proof that it may be too difficult to discern between a large coyote (which is legal to kill) and a wolf (which is not), is that the DEC originally proclaimed the animal to be a coyote. It took over a year (and an independent DNA review) for the NYS DEC to officially classify the animal as a wolf. You can learn more about differentiating the animals here and below.

Another comparison between a wolf and coyote skull (NYS DEC via Facebook)
Another comparison between a wolf and coyote skull (NYS DEC via Facebook)
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There is wildlife everywhere you look in New York State, including, it seems, wolves. See the best way to react to running into some of the more "popular" New York species below, and keep scrolling to see an adorable family that you will never confuse with a coyote: the beaver.

New York Animal Encounters

What do you do if you encounter these animals in the woods of New York?

Frolicking Beaver Family Swims in the Hudson Valley

Mom, dad, and two adorable baby beavers took some family time out on a Orange County, NY lake

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