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Updated 10:35 AM EDT, Thu, Apr 18, 2019

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Gray Wolf Alert: Officials Scramble to Investigate Sighting near Grand Canyon

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(Photo : commons.wikimedia.org)

An animal resembling the endangered western gray wolf may be roaming the Grand Canyon.

The animal was first spotted and photographed at the Kaibab National Forest north of Grand Canyon National Park on Oct.4 by a park visitor who then shared the pictures with park staff and conservation activists.

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The pictures appeared to show a wolf wearing an inactive radio collar similar to those used in a wolf recovery effort in the northern Rocky Mountains.

Officials are attempting to collect the animal's scat for DNA testing to know what exactly they're dealing with.

If the animal is indeed a wolf of the western gray variety, it would be the first authenticated sighting in the area for almost 70 years. Officials believe this western gray wolf likely travelled a long way from the Northern Rockies.

Authorities have mapped potential wolf habitats in the North Kaibab but in the early 1990s, federal hunters killed more than 30 of the animals in the region, including the last known wolf at the Grand Canyon National Park.

The wolves were then reintroduced to the Yellow Stone National Park of the Rocky Mountains. Officials, however, wanted at least 1,691wolves removed from the endangered species list. In 1974, gray wolves were classified as endangered by the federal government.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said the wolf probably traveled this far to reclaim the Grand Canyon as a home. The wolves still need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Wolves have been at the center of a legal battle for years as conservation activists seek to maintain the Endangered Species Act protection. On the other hand, anti-wolf advocates recently set out to hunt down most of the wolves living outside Yellowstone National Park.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also sought to remove the endangered species protection for wolves. Their latest proposal, which is scheduled to be finalized later this year, would endanger wolves like the one spotted at the Grand Canyon.

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