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A Montana woman bragged about killing a wolf pup. It was actually a husky

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

A woman who bragged online about killing a wolf in Montana sparked outrage after the animal actually turned out to be a domestic dog. As Montana Public Radio's Aaron Bolton reports, the incident is bringing attention to the state's wolf hunting laws.

AARON BOLTON, BYLINE: Last week, a woman who goes by Amber Rose posted on social media that she, quote, "smoked a wolf pup," posing with the animal after she skinned it. Some people in the state believe there are too many wolves, threatening livestock and big game. Wolf hunting is legal in Montana, but commenters quickly pointed out that what Rose thought was a wolf was a husky - a fact Montana wildlife officials have confirmed. It's unclear whether Rose had a valid wolf hunting license.

Greg Lemon with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks says domestic dogs mistaken for wolves have been shot in the past, though it's exceedingly rare, and he says most hunters realized the mistake after they approach the animal. He says this situation is a good reminder for hunters to make sure they know what they are shooting.

GREG LEMON: If you're going to pull the trigger, that the animal that's in your crosshairs is the animal that you have a license for.

BOLTON: Local police say the dog Rose shot was one of several that were abandoned in the remote area where she was hunting. They're trying to find out who abandoned the dogs and are also investigating Rose. It's unclear whether any charges will be brought.

Montana wildlife officials say wolf populations in the state are stable. It's estimated there are more than 1,100 statewide. Last hunting season, licensed hunters killed about 270 wolves. Conservationist Nick Gevock says the husky incident is once again shining a light on wolf hunting in Montana.

NICK GEVOCK: But the larger issue is the direction Montana is taking in its management of predators in general and gray wolves.

BOLTON: Last season, hunters killed fewer wolves than in previous years despite the state last year liberalizing wolf hunting laws. Baiting, hunting at night and other methods are now legal as lawmakers seek to reduce the number of livestock wolves kill. Other states also followed suit.

GEVOCK: And none of that falls within what anybody would call fair chase hunting.

BOLTON: Gevock says fair chase hunting, which requires hunters' ability to track and shoot the animals on their own, can be a good tool to manage wolf numbers. But he says the new laws could mean wolves are once again driven to near extinction in Montana. Montana and other states' push to liberalize wolf hunting has sparked a push to once again protect Montana wolves under the Endangered Species Act. For NPR News, I'm Aaron Bolton in Columbia Falls, Mont. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.