Back in March, James Troyer shot an animal while predator hunting on his family’s farm in Hart County. He walked up and saw it was much larger than a coyote. “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?”

Because a free-ranging wolf has not been seen in Kentucky for more than 100 years, biologists were skeptical. Troyer convinced Kevin Raymond, a biologist for the Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources, to look at the animal. Once Raymond saw the animal was twice the size of a coyote he contacted furbearer biologist Laura Patton, who submitted samples to federal officials for DNA testing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Lab confirmed it—a 73-pound wolf!

There are many rumors of wolves (and cougars) popping up in places where they are not supposed to be, but this is real: So how did the wolf get down there? Wildlife officials are aware that a few radio-collared northern wolves have wandered as far south as Missouri in the past decade. And some biologists speculate the wolf might have been captive for some time, based on its dental characteristics. They point out “a largely carnivorous diet requiring the crushing of bone as they eat produces much less plaque on the teeth of wild wolves.”

Because state and federal laws prohibit possession/importation/hunting of gray wolves in Kentucky, federal officials took the pelt. This is a bummer for Troyer, but it will be a cool and educational piece for the public in a state Fish and Wildlife display—the first free-ranging gray wolf documented in Kentucky’s modern history.

The press release said no federal or state charges are expected because there were no prior biological expectations for Troyer or any hunter to encounter a wolf in Kentucky. Lord I hope not: You, me or any predator hunter would have shot that critter!