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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

A very illuminating Sunday morning review of a great new book on Red Wolves(C.rufus) by our friend Helen McGinnis(Puma and Wolf advocate in West Virginia)....The book is entitled THE SECRET WORLD OF RED WOLVES and the author Beeland T. Delene "wades into the controversy over the identity of the red wolf"...... "Is it a distinct subspecies or species, or is it a hybrid between gray wolves (C. lupus) and coyotes (C. latrans)?"............ "Did red wolves originally occur only in the southeastern United States, or are they southern survivors of the native eastern wolves (C. lycaon) that once occurred across all of eastern North America into southern Ontario and Quebec". .........As we have over the past week also heard from another good friend, Rick Laman, the author of the Wikipedia taxonomy entry on Red Wolves, thought combining the informations of both McGinnis and Lanman would further stir interest in all of you to investigate for yourselves the cauldron of controversy that revolves around the "canid soup" of red wolves, eastern wolves, eastern coyotes(coywolves), gray wolves and western coyotes-----Happy weekend reading to all of you!

Rick, I posted the review below on  Strongly recommend it to readers of Coyotes, Wolves.........

Helene McGinnis


Book Description

 June 10, 2013
Red wolves are shy, elusive, and misunderstood predators. Until the 1800s, they were common in the longleaf pine savannas and deciduous forests of the southeastern United States. However, habitat degradation, 

persecution, and interbreeding with the coyote nearly annihilated them. Today, reintroduced red wolves are found only in peninsular northeastern North Carolina within less than 1 percent of their former range. In The Secret World of Red Wolves, nature writer T. DeLene Beeland shadows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's pioneering recovery program over the course of a year to craft an intimate portrait of the red wolf, its history, and its restoration. Her engaging exploration of this top-level predator traces the intense effort of conservation personnel to save a species that has slipped to the verge of extinction. 

Beeland weaves together the voices of scientists, conservationists, and local landowners while posing larger questions about human coexistence with red wolves, our understanding of what defines this animal as a distinct species, and how climate change may swamp its current habitat

Beeland, T. Delene.  2013.  The Secret World of Red Wolves: The Fight to Save North America's Other Wolf.  University of North Carolina Press, 265 pp.

The title of the book may imply to some that the topic is addressed superficially--"dumbed down," but in fact this is an in-depth coverage of a little known animal.  We learn where wild red wolves (Canis rufus) occur today (only in a limited area on the coast of NE North Carolina), and how they are managed (intensively).  What are the major threats to their continued existence?  (Hybridization with coyotes and illegal shooting are two.)  How they were rescued from certain extinction by bringing all known surviving individuals into captivity, and on the difficulty of finding an area where captive-bred individuals could be reintroduced to the wild. How global warming threatens the red wolf.

Beeland wades into the controversy over the identity of the red wolf.  Is it a distinct subspecies or species, or is it a hybrid between gray wolves (C. lupus) and coyotes (C.  latrans)?  Did red wolves originally occur only in the southeastern United States, or are they southern survivors of the native eastern wolves (C. lycaon) that once occurred across all of eastern North America into southern Ontario and Quebec.

  People advocating reintroduction of wolves to the East should be familiar with the issues she raises. 

 I recommend that it be read along with another -- WOLF COUNTRY by John B. Theberge – on the wolves of Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario.


Helen McGinnis


Wolves arouse a passion in people. Some are fascinated by them; others hate them. Time and again, John and Mary Theberge have been confronted by angry hunters and farmers who repeat the same refrain, "What good is a wolf anyway?"

In Wolf Country, Theberge provides a gentle answer to that harsh question by describing the lives of the wolves that he and Mary came to know. In telling their stories, he also addresses a number of fascinating issues, such as: whether wolf packs aggressively defend their territories; whether wolves kill more of their prey than the prey population can sustain; and whether pack behavior supports the idea of the survival of the best-fit group. Their studies have led them to investigate the many elements that shape wolf habitat, from the prevalence of certain tree species, to the effect of parasites on moose.

Petra Mehner (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) 
I thought this was a very well written book from two hard working and passionate biologists who are deeply concerned about the Algonquin wolves. I couldn't put the book down, it was so informative and fascinating. The book brings up many issues regarding wolf conservation, and is full of interesting facts about wolves and their prey. The many years of wolf research done by these two biologists in Algonquin Park really shows through. If you love wolves this book is a must for your collection.



Red Wolf in Alligator River, National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina

The taxonomy of the red wolf has been debated since before efforts began in 1973 to save it from extinction. In 1971, Atkins and Dillon conducted a study on the brains of canids and confirmed the distinctiveness and primitive characteristics of the red wolf.[14] 

Many studies throughout the 1970s focused on the morphology of the red wolf came to the conclusion that the red wolf is a distinct species.[12] In 1980, Ferrell et al. found a unique allele in Canis specimens from within the red wolf range, supporting the conclusion that the red wolf is a distinct species.[15] 

Still, some in the scientific community considered it a subspecies of the grey wolf[16] or a hybrid of the grey wolf and the coyote.[17][18]
In 1992, the USFWS conducted an exhaustive review of the literature, including their own, and concluded that the red wolf is either a separate species unto itself or a subspecies of the gray wolf.[19][20][21] 

Many agency reports, books and web pages list the red wolf as Canis rufus but recent genetic research has opened a new debate about the taxonomy of both the red wolf and Canada's eastern wolf (Canis lycaon).[14]

Wilson et al. (2000) concluded that the eastern wolf and red wolf should be considered as sister taxa due to a shared common ancestor going back 150,000–300,000 years. In addition, Wilson et al. further stated that they should be recognized as distinct species from other North American canids, and not as subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus). However, these conclusions have been disputed,[22][23] and Mammal Species of the World[4] currently lists them both as subspecies of the gray wolf.

In May 2011, an analysis of red wolf, Eastern wolf, gray wolf, and dog genomes suggested that the red wolf was 76–80 percent coyote and only 20–24 percent gray wolf, suggesting that the red wolf is actually much more coyote in origin than the Eastern wolf. This study analyzed 48,000 SNP and found no evidence for a unique Eastern wolf or red wolf species.[6] 

However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service still considers the red wolf a valid species and plans to make no changes to its recovery program.[24] In 2012, re-analysis of the 2011 SNP study argued that the latter suffered from insufficient sampling and noted that gray wolves do not mate with coyotes.[7] Another Y-chromosome genetic study in 2012 also argued that the eastern wolf and red wolf are not hybrids but rather are a distinct species from the gray wolf, although eastern and red wolves do intermix with coyotes.[25]

The same authors have argued that the 2011 SNP study finding that red wolves are not an independent species is flawed and that historical hunting and culling of wolves, leading to invasion of coyotes into eastern North America, has led to introgression of coyote mitochondrial and nuclear DNA into fragmented, decimated eastern wolf packs.[7] They and other authors have postulated that large populations of eastern and red wolves with intact social/pack structures are less likely to interbreed with coyotes.[26] 

The controversy over the red wolf's species status was the subject of a comprehensive review of the 2011 and 2012 genetics studies, which concluded that there are three separate species of wolf in North America, the red wolf, eastern wolf and gray wolf.[1] 

When considered as a full species, three subspecies of red wolf were originally recognized by Goldman;[27] two of these subspecies are extinct. The Florida black wolf (Canis rufus flordianus) (Maine to Florida)[23] has been extinct since 1930 and Gregory's wolf (Canis rufus gregoryi) (south-central United States)[23] was declared functionally extinct in the wild by 1980. Canis rufus rufus, the third surviving subspecies, was also functionally extinct in the wild by 1980, although that status was changed to "critically endangered" when captive-bred red wolves were reintroduced in eastern North Carolina in 1987. The current status of the "non-essential/experimental" population in North Carolina is "endangered" and the population numbers around 100 wild animals.[28]

From: Wilson, Don <>
Date: Tue, Jul 2, 2013 at 6:43 PM
Subject: RE: Latest on N Am wolf species and subspecies
To: Rick Lanman <>

I'm now working on the Handbook of Mammals of the world ( Vol. 1 was on carnivores, 2 on ungulates, and 3 on Primates (just out this spring). 4 will be marine mammals next year, and I'm now working on marsupials, vol. 5.

The next edition of Mammal Species of the world will be in 2016, probably.


From: Rick Lanman []
Sent: Tuesday, July 02, 2013 9:38 PM
To: Wilson, Don
Subject: Re: Latest on N Am wolf species and subspecies

Thank you so much. I will change the wikipedia pages for eastern wolf to C. lycaon and red wolf to C. rufus.

When does your next book come out?


On Tue, Jul 2, 2013 at 6:19 PM, Wilson, Don <
>> wrote:
Hi Rick,

Yes, the wolf studies are both illuminating and confusing. The Chambers et al. review is very well done. I and several others had ample opportunity to review it and they were very willing to listen to all viewpoints. Red wolves remain enigmatic, but I think the conservative approach is to recognize them as a separate species pending sufficient genetic studies to comfortably synonymize them with C. lycaon. I would say updating wikipedia to follow Chambers et al. is certainly warranted.
From: Rick Lanman [>]
Sent: Tuesday, July 02, 2013 5:55 PM
To: Wilson, Don
Subject: Latest on N Am wolf species and subspecies

Dear Dr. Wilson,

I have been wading through the recent publications and have rarely seen such a fierce debate, especially between Rutledge and the 48,000 SNP study.

This extensive review by Chambers and his USFWS colleagues seems unusually balanced and digests all the material in what seems to be objective, comprehensive and balanced.

When does your next book come out and what do you think of Chambers' conclusion that we have three species:
Gray wolf, Eastern (or Great Lakes) wolf, and Red wolf
and three subspecies of Gray wolf: C. l. baileyi, C. l. nubilis and C. l. occidentalis.

Thanks for your help, I'd like to update wikipedia's Red wolf page, currently stating that it is C. l. rufus, if you agree that it should be updated. I would cite Chambers as the reference.


Rick Lanman MD
Los Altos, CA

click here to read Chambers Taxonomy of North American Wolves

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