ABERDEEN, S.D. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the case of a South Dakota man who may have illegally shot a gray wolf.

Mike Werner of Britton alleges he was hunting coyotes in Marshall County on Jan. 13 when he shot and killed what he thought was a larger, dark coyote, Aberdeen American News reported . Werner said he called the local game warden after noticing the animal resembled a wolf.

Gray wolf sightings are uncommon in the northeast part of the state, but some transient wolves occasionally pass through the area.

“Northern Minnesota has a healthy population of gray wolves,” said Mike Klosowski with the state Game, Fish and Parks Department. “Then when you go out west near Yellowstone National Park, you have a very healthy population of wolves out there, too.”

Wolves are protected under the state’s Endangered Species Act. Klosowski said harvesting, trapping or recreational hunting of wolves is an illegal act in the state.

The Game, Fish and Parks Department has no wolf management authority, so cases involving gray wolves are handled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Casey Dowler, a conservation officer with the Game, Fish and Parks Department, said the animal that Werner shot is being tested at a federal lab.

Federal officials said they’re unable to comment on the ongoing investigation.

Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com