Wolves are returning to Iowa nearly a century after they were last known to roam the state.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirms a wolf -- mistaken for a coyote -- was shot and killed by a hunter in Buchanan County in February. DNR officials say the animal was killed near Fairbank and is the first documented wolf in Iowa since 1925.

Coyote hunting is legal in the state, but wolves are a protected species. Although shooting the wolf was illegal, the DNR chose not to issue a citation because the hunter didn't intentionally do anything wrong and fully cooperated with state officials.

After killing the wolf, the hunter took the animal to the state's conservation office in Manchester so DNR biologists could test it. DNA samples confirmed the animal was a female wolf that weighed 65 to 70 pounds.

DNR officials believe the wolf wondered into Iowa from Minnesota or Wisconsin, where wolves are more common.

Two different subspecies of wolf once roamed Iowa, but the state's settlers considered them a threat to livestock and systematically killed them or drove them away. Wolves disappeared from Iowa in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

According to a 2012 DNR status report, the last wild wolf killed in Iowa was in Butler County in the winter of 1884-85. The report also indicates a wolf was taken in Shelby County in 1925, although conservation officials believe it may have escaped from captivity before being shot.

The DNR says, in recent years, wolves have been slowly moving south along the Mississippi River. Black bear and mountain lion -- other large predator animals once exterminated in Iowa -- have occasionally been seen in the state, too, in recent years.