A Missouri man killed what could be a U.S. record-breaking 81-pound coyote. The only problem? Nobody's really sure if it is a coyote at all.
The man, who remains anonymous, was bowhunting in Cooper County when what he thought was an enormous coyote walked out in front of him, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. With a proper permit, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), the man shot the animal and reported it to officials.
After receiving the report, Cooper County conservation agent Mike Abdon said he went to check out the hunter's kill, where he met a crowd of intrigued onlookers gathered around a pickup truck.
"I wasn't quite for sure what it was," Abdon said. "It looked like a coyote, but it didn't. My first thoughts of it was just the sheer size of its feet. Its overall size was also a determining factor."
The U.S. record coyote is 74 pounds, which means this would be the new record if it is indeed a coyote. Abdon said that the animal will be taken to a regional office for testing, which could take up to six months. There is the possibility that the animal is some sort of hybrid, too. Abdon said he didn't believe the animal was fully developed, so it had the potential to be much larger.
According to the MDC, no grey wolves are currently present in Missouri. The species was believed to have gone extinct by the end of the 19th century, and unlike other states, Missouri has never attempted to reintroduce the controversial predator. John George, regional wildlife supervisor, said any possible reintroduction of the grey wolf is a touchy subject.
"It is very controversial to reintroduce any type of large carnivore," George said. "You need huge blocks of undeveloped land when you consider that."
Other states like Minnesota and Wisconsin have both taken part in wolf reintroduction programs, and both states are currently in the midst of their first sanctioned hunting seasons. There have been legal battles, mauled hound dogs and death threats on Facebook about the issue, as the polarizing wolf issue remains center stage.