"We're pretty excited about it," Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the nonprofit, told The Post on Tuesday.
Robinson said the wolf, which the Arizona-based group "strongly" suspects is from the northern Rocky Mountains, appears to be wearing a radio collar, which isn't working. But if authorities can successfully track the animal, they might be able to try to determine its DNA using other testing methods.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives told Live Science and National Geographic that they were working to collect a feces sample from the animal, which would help determine whether it is, in fact, a gray wolf -- or perhaps a hybrid.
"Until more is known about this animal, visitors to the area are cautioned that this may be a wolf from the northern Rocky Mountain population and fully protected under the Endangered Species Act," the agency told Live Science in a statement.
For what it's worth, Robinson said he doesn't think the animal looks like a hybrid -- at least in photos. Its tail isn't curving the way it might with a hybrid, for example, and its facial appearance and ears seem like those of a gray wolf.
"The things that would be red flags to me, I'm not seeing," he said.
Gray wolves once abundant "across most of the continental United States," according to Live Science.
But the predators were aggressively hunted and sometimes killed for bounties through the early 20th century. By the mid-20th century, the only places gray wolves could be found below the Canadian border were a sliver of land in northern Minnesota and Michigan's Isle Royale.The species was then protected under the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s. Conservation efforts and reintroduction programs helped gray wolves return to parts of their range. There are now more than 5,000 gray wolves in the continental United States, primarily in the western Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the northern Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, as well as eastern Oregon and Washington.
For people like Robinson, the recent gray wolf sighting might be a signal that the population might grow in the Grand Canyon's north rim region. (He said that the center has been told that the animal wouldn't be shipped back to the Rocky Mountains, but instead released onsite.)
"It's like this wolf is voting with its four paws to stay in an area that scientists have found to be good for wolves," he said.