Wolf Hunting photo

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Wildlife Research Center in Colorado performed a DNA test to conclusively prove the 73-pound dog-like animal a Kentucky hunter shot on March 16, was indeed a gray wolf.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources released a statement on Aug. 14, 2013 that says Hart County resident James Troyer shot the wolf at 100 yards while coyote hunting on his family’s farm.

“I was like – wow – that thing was big!” he recalled. “It looked like a wolf, but who is going to believe I shot a wolf?”

State wildlife biologists were skeptical of Troyer’s theory at first, but were aware of other radio collared wolves wandering as far south as Missouri and decided to investigate. After seeing the size of the animal, they collected a DNA sample for testing. They also noted a large amount of plaque on the animal’s teeth which may mean the animal spent time in captivity. The crushing of bone as a wild wolf eats produces less plaque buildup.

A DNA sample confirmed the wolf had a genetic makeup resembling those in the Great Lake region–a finding confirmed by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife laboratory in Oregon. However, how the wolf came to Kentucky, an state that’s been devoid of the animal since the 1800s, remains a mystery, and because it’s the first free-ranging wolf in the state’s history, federal or state charges aren’t expected, but federal officials took possession of the wolf pelt from Troyer.