Here’s another earmark: More privacy for red wolves to breed

New breeding center near Tacoma, Wash

Here’s another earmark: More privacy for red wolves to breed By Lisa Zagaroli | McClatchy Newspapers

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Although the Great Lakes gray wolf is officially recovered, new genetic analysis indicates it is not a pure wolf

~I think this is the most important wolf story in quite a while~

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Perhaps the greatest success story in terms of numbers is the recovery of the wolf in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Recovery began, however, before genetic analysis had advanced. Far more is known today, and the recovered wolf in the Great Lakes area is a mixture of the orginal wolves of the Great Lakes area, the Eastern Timber wolf (which seems to be a separate species very closely related to the red wolf) and coyotes.

Nevertheless, I think the restoration is a successful and important program because these large canids are on the ground fulfilling the same ecological function as the wolves of 200 years ago.

Genetic purity is important, nonetheless, and the only restored wolf population that clearly is all wolf are the wolves of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming which came down from Western Canada beginning in the 1980s on their own accord and were also captured and reintroduced to Yellowstone Park and central Idaho in 1995-6.

The story below does not mention this, but what it means is that the most vital wolf population from the standpoint of conserving and restoring endangered speices is the wolves in these three states — the very states which are going to be given a nearlly free hand to kill them once they are delisted as long as each state maintains a token population of about 10-15 packs (how these will be counted is a matter of controversy).

Off Endangered List, but What Animal Is It Now? By Mark Derr. New York Times.

Eastern coyotes and the red wolf. Guest opinion

Suburban Howls will be published by Dog Ear Publications (Indiana, IL). It should be out around Christmas-time. In it, I detail the possible evolution of coyotes. Note that Gerry Parker in Eastern Coyotes: The Story of Its Success does a great job detailing the evolution of the eastern coyote.

I also have an article coming out in the fall issue of the peer-reviewed journal Northeastern Naturalist.

Basically, the theory is that by the turn of this century there weren’t many wolves left (as everybody knows by now), but there were some. At the same time it is well known that coyotes were moving east from the Great Lakes States. As they reached northern New England and southern Canada they likely met lone wolves. Up until recently we thought they were gray wolves, Canis lupus lycaon. However, recent genetic data indicates that most wolves sampled in that area (including Algonquin Park in Ontario) are actually very similar to red wolves. The thought might now be that there used to have red wolves (or eastern wolves as proposed to be named) all along eastern North America from Florida through New England to SE Canada. It is believed that is what the western coyote mated with.

Then, by natural range expansion, the hybrid started breeding true (ie, back with other hybrids or even western coyotes or red wolves) as they colonized New Hampshire (1940s) and southern New England (Massachusetts late 1950s). Qualitatively it is obvious to me that they are hybrids – just looking at their size, appearance, and characteristics.

We are now just looking at the eastern coyote side of things genetically, .i.e., I am collaborating with Brad White and his team to examine the genetic profile of the eastern coyotes, much like has already been done for wolves in SE Canada. Because there is scant funding for eastern coyote research, there has been a lag to truly understanding the genetic makeup of these cool animals.

The paper that I have coming out in Northeastern Naturalist does definitively show that eastern coyotes are heavier than all other types of coyotes (specifically the coyotes from New England).

Tests are underway to determine what are the wolves that have occasionally been recolonizing the east. Note: there is also supposedly a population of gray, not red, wolves not far from Maine. While some still think that the wolf in SE Canada is a gray wolf, Canis lupus lycaon, it is well known that these wolves are smaller than grays from other areas, except maybe the Mexican wolf. However, one of the biggest problems for the red wolf reintroduction project in North Carolina has been hybridization with coyotes. This is no doubt what happened in northern New England many years ago. As you know, hybridization with western coyotes and the bigger gray wolves does not seem to occur.

At any rate, it is bewildering that the northern New England states allow unlimited killing of such closely related species. People out of New England might think that we are very “liberal” – but on the ground in New England, with policies like that for coyotes, that isn’t really the case. Hopefully those states will get sued for not protecting the wolves.