Female Wolf Illegally Shot Dead in Minnesota, Leaves Behind Lone Wolf Male

A female wolf has been illegally shot dead in Minnesota, leaving her fellow male wolf without a mate.

The wolf was a breeding female belonging to the Tamarack Pack, which held a territory to the southwest of the wider Voyageurs ecosystem, in northern Minnesota.

Before the female's death, the pack was only made up of one breeding pair. Following her death, the other breeding male became a lone wolf.

The Voyageurs Wolf Project, a research group that studies wolves in the Voyageurs National Park by using GPS collars, said on Facebook that this brings the Tamarack Pack to an end "as [they] know it."

A picture shows the wolf that was illegally shot. Voyageurs Wolf Project

Since the female's death, the project has seen the now-lone wolf wandering the wilderness on his own.

The project said on Facebook that although this pack "is no more," it is anticipating new wolves to take over their territory very soon.

"Vacant territories do not remain that way for long in our area and we will be keen to study the wolves that take over that territory," the Facebook post said. "Fortunately, GPS-collars allow us to document these events that could otherwise go undetected, and provide unparalleled insight into the lives and deaths of wolves in our area."

The Minnesota gray wolf is a federally protected species, meaning it is prohibited to trap or hunt them.

Thomas Gable, project lead at the Voyageurs Wolf Project, told Newsweek that illegal killing does occur in areas where wolves and people share the landscape, however, it is fortunately not happening "all the time."

"All I can say is that we have documented four collared wolves that have been illegally killed over the past two years," he said. "The wolf population in the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem, which includes Voyageurs National Park and large amount of land south of the park, has remained relatively stable and at a high-density for many years. This suggests that illegal killing is not having much effect on the overall population."

However, he said that when breeding individuals like this female are illegally killed, it can cause "disruption in wolf packs as was the case in the Tamarack Pack."

"Once the female was killed, the male no longer had a mate and the Tamarack Pack dissolved so to speak," he said. "That said, another wolf pack will almost certainly take over that territory soon—if they haven't already—so on a population-level such killings do not likely have much effect in our area."

The Voyageurs National Park has a population of between 30 and 50 wolves, divided into six to nine packs.

The Voyageurs Wolf Project mainly focuses on one of the "biggest knowledge gaps in wolf ecology," which is what wolves do during the summer. They do by keeping close watch on GPS collars and setting up trail cameras in the park.

A gray wolf (Inset). A stock image of a hunter. Getty