Wild Saturday

Wolves are protected in Illinois.

(Consider this posting the start of something: Saturday mornings as time for wild things on Stray Casts.)

Of the three wild wolves confirmed in modern Illinois, two were killed by coyote hunters. The hunters were not prosecuted for their accidental shootings (Illinois was not supposed have wolves).

Coyote hunter Randy Worker killed the first confirmed wild wolf in modern Illinois on Dec. 29, 2002 in Marshall County near the Illinois River.

Young coyote hunter Seth Hall surprised himself when he shot a wild wolf in December 2005 in Pike County. That’s the last confirmed wild wolf in Illinois.

The only confirmed wild wolf in the Chicago in modern times was hit by a car near Chain O’Lakes State Park on Feb. 17, 2005.

Why do I revisit the history of wolves in Illinois?

On Tuesday, I listened to a wolf story from somebody experienced in the outdoors who didn’t want it out specifically for fear somebody would come hunting it. That’s why I had to use the vague term, “the Upper Illinois River Valley,” as site of the possible wolf sighting.

And he had a legitimate fear. I had driven every mile of road along the Illinois River, on both sides, in the county where he saw it while looking for possible places to hunt deer and turkey. If I had done that kind of looking for hunting spots, there are others even more diligent than me.

Was it a wolf? We probably will never know unless it is hit by a car or shot accidentally by a coyote hunter.

A reader in northwestern Illinois sent a note Wednesday morning that he was eastbound on Route 64 near Lanark when they “saw a wolf or wolf hybrid running very fast into an open field.”

By sight, it is impossible to tell a wolf from a wolf hybrid. That’s the crux of the problem in identifying live wolves.

All the same, he concluded, “It was a good sight on the snow and the cornfield to see this wolf coming across our path.”

One I wish I live long enough to see in Illinois.

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