A Minnesota hunter faces imprisonment for illegally shooting and killing a gray wolf in Lake County in 2002.

Steven A. Taylor, 46, of Zimmerman, was found guilty last week in a bench trial before U.S. Magistrate Judge Raymond Erickson in Duluth.

Taylor killed the wolf, a federally protected species at the time, near Isabella Township in northern Minnesota during a hunting trip in November 2002.

"People tend to think that they can get away with killing endangered or threatened wildlife, particularly in remote areas where there are few witnesses," said Patrick Lund, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's St. Paul office.

Court testimony indicated that Taylor and his group hunted in that area near Shamrock Lake on Nov. 20-23, 2002. Witnesses testified that they heard two shots and asked Taylor whether he got any deer. Taylor replied that he shot two wolves.

When the species was first listed as endangered in the 1970s, only a few hundred wolves remained in Minnesota. Recovery efforts have increased its population and helped assure its survival.

Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the gray wolf in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, commonly known as the timber wolf, had been removed from America's list of wildlife species threatened or endangered with extinction.

Taylor faces a potential maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and a $25,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 3.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482