Two DNA Tests Identify Suspected Wolves in Elko County as Coyotes 

Elko County, NV- The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has received results from two independent genetic labs regarding the samples gathered in conjunction with the recent sighting of three suspected wolves near Merritt Mountain, north of Elko. DNA analysis of the hair, fecal, and urine samples collected along the suspected tracks in the snow has revealed with 99.9 percent certainty that samples are from coyotes.  

On March 17, a helicopter crew contracted by NDOW for a moose collaring project observed three animals that resembled wolves. After the crew reported the sighting, NDOW biologists followed up with a helicopter search and then with ground surveys in the area via snowmobiles. In following the tracks through the snow, biologists collected hair, fecal, and urine samples for DNA analysis. What sets this investigation apart is the rigorous examination applied to the samples: they were sent to not one, but two independent labs for analysis. The results from both labs conclusively show no genetic connection to wolf species and reveal genetic markers consistent with coyotes. 

“While initial observations indicated the possibility of wolves in the area, the DNA results of the samples collected indicated that these animals were, in fact, coyotes,” stated NDOW Director Alan Jenne. “We appreciate the diligence of our biologists, assisting laboratory personnel and the public’s cooperation throughout this process and we will continue to monitor the area for any indication of wolf presence.” 

Nevada, not historically known as wolf habitat, does occasionally see wolves crossing state lines. NDOW remains committed to monitoring wildlife populations and ensuring public safety. 

“We understand the significance of such sightings and the importance of accurate identification,” Director Jenne added. “NDOW will continue to work closely with state and federal agencies to uphold our mission of protecting Nevada’s ecosystems and wildlife while also maintaining transparency as a top priority in all our communications with the public.” 

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