Reality Check: Illinois man challenges government on wolf sightings

Red wolves. (WICS)

A man based out of Industry, Illinois in McDonough County says he can prove that red wolves are populous in Illinois.

Jay Smith, the founder of Kanahoe Wolves of Forgettonia, says he has spotted red wolves on his farmland in Industry for the past seven years.

"There was something about their behavior and their size," Smith said.

Smith said that animals were bigger than a dog and coyote, but smaller than a common gray wolf.

"I was basically told that they are coyotes," Smith said.

Earlier this year, Smith went to wildlife experts both at the state and federal level, convinced that they are red wolves. He's been working with a professor based out of Minnesota who confirmed traces of wolf DNA in the samples he's provided.

The animals are a protected endangered species that the government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars nationwide in programs to recover and protect them each year.

Smith said they aren't safe in Illinois.

"The whole goal here is to stop the killing of canids that [the government] is classifying as coyotes, and saying its okay," Smith said. "They are not coyotes and they can’t prove that."

Illinois law allows sanctioned coyote hunts which is something Smith says is putting red wolves at risk.

"The field museum is in the process of looking at their DNA as well as other coyote, dog, and wolf specimens from throughout the Midwest," said Doug Dufford, Wildlife Disease and Invasive Species Program Manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resource.

Dufford says testing should have been completed months ago, but the field museum in Chicago says the process in pinpointing what type of animals are being reported, is taking longer than expected.

"For these animals to be red wolves, it would be an incredibly large leap," Dufford said. "It requires strong evidence and that’s why the field museum is undergoing their investigation."

Results are expected by the end of the year.

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