DNA tests confirmed that two Gray Wolves were killed this past winter, separately in Osceola (northwest) and VanBuren (southeast) counties in Iowa by hunters who mistook them for Coyotes. The Department of Natural Resources reports an increase in the number of wolves dispersing from the neighboring Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan into Iowa. Although wolves are considered endangered in Iowa and protected under state and federal law, the DNR has chosen not to press charges against the hunters.

In Iowa, coyotes are hunted year round and the usual take is well over 10,000. Hunting and trapping are considered the only useful means to manage coyote populations. However, in a study conducted by TM Newsmen and WJ Ripple that analyzed fur trap data over eight jurisdictions across North America, in areas of wolf density the fox population outnumbered coyotes. In a wolf-coyote-fox trophic cascade, wolves exert some population control over their mesopredator coyote canid counterparts by direct and indirect effects of interspecific competitive killing. Therefore, the fox population in these areas of greater wolf density, notably in the centers of wolf territory, increased. On the edges of wolf territory and lower wolf density, predatorial pressure on coyotes is less resulting in more coyotes – less fox. Due to this uneven distribution of wolves and the resulting flux in the wolf-coyote-fox cascade, the authors of the study concluded that wolves “may need to occupy large continuous areas” to potentially shift coyote populations. Meaning, the more wolves and wolf dispersal and distribution; the less need to “manage”, trap, kill and hunt coyotes.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has Information on their website “Occasional Wildlife Visitors to Iowa” to help hunters learn to discern the difference between wolves and coyotes.