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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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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our good friend, Biologist Linda Rutledge of Trent University speaking this coming Monday 1/27 on Eastern Wolves and whether they are expanding their range out of Algonquin Park.............Of course these are the same Wolves that readily hybridize with Coyotes when Wolf populations are pressured and exploited by humans, reducing their populations to low numbers,,,,,,,,,,These Eastern Wolves are the same Wolves that hybridize with Gray Wolves as well...............The Eastern Wolf,,,,,,,,,,,,,a true conduit back and forth across the canid species,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,As one of Linda's colleagues, Bradley White stated last night in the COYWOLF TV Special that ran on PBS, "I wish I was at the beginning of my career studying the Canid family",,,,,,,,,,,,,Brad is indeed spot on with his commentary,,,,,,,,,,,,,What and how will the "canid soup" mixtures that are being "shaken and stirred" throughout the Eastern and Midwestern sections of North America look like and how will they behave over the decades to come?.............How will they effect prey species like deer, moose and beaver?...........What will their impact be on their smaller cousins, the Gray and Red Foxes?,,,,,,,,What will their impact be on plant life, rodents, and birds?,,,,,...What will their ultimate impact be on humans,,,,,,,,,,,,,and us on them?......................As they say in my business, "STAY TUNED AND ENJOY THE SHOW"

Biologist describes wolf research 

in Ottawa Monday

Biologist describes wolf research in Ottawa Monday

The Eastern wolf.

OTTAWA — There will
 be a public presentation
 on the Eastern wolf, the
type of wolf native to this
 region, in Ottawa on
Biologist Linda Rutledge
 of Trent University will
give the presentation at
7 p.m. at Mac Hall in the
 Bronson Centre (211
 Bronson Ave.)
 Admission is free but the organizers will ask for
Rutledge is conducting
 a survey of whether Eastern wolves have spread from Algonquin
 Park to other provincial parks in Eastern and Southern Ontario.
She will describe the wolf’s life and habits and tell how genetic
 tools are helping to distinguish the different types of wolves,
coyotes, and hybrids.


The Hearty Ingredients

 of Canis Soup


The wolf is iconic and charismatic. We see him on
t-shirts, on posters, and in fantasy novels. Conservationists
 do battle with ranchers to preserve populations of wolves.
 The coyote, on the other hand, is neither iconic nor loved.
 A newcomer to suburbia, he is feared as a suspected
predator of cats, small dogs, and even small children.
 He is rarely seen on t-shirts; his name is not used to
designate a rank of Boy Scout.

But now that we have the genetic tools to look at these
 animals’ genomes, it turns out that many of the
populations of coyotes in North America are actually
 coyote-wolf hybrids, as are many of the populations
 of wolves. Unable to draw clear lines between these
species, biologists have dubbed the populations of
 hybrids “Canis soup.”

What’s a Canis?
The term “canid soup” has also been used for this
 mess of wolf, coyote, and even dog genes that we
 find in some populations of canids. So what does
Canis mean, and what is a canid?

These are terms related to the scientific classification
 of the species in question. Going through the hierarchy,
 we have Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class
 Mammalia, Order Carnivora, Family Canidae (canids),
 and Genus Canis. Wolves, dogs, jackals, and foxes
 belong to the family Canidae, but only wolves, dogs,
and jackals (not foxes) belong to the genus Canis.
We call the wolf-like canids “canines” and the fox-like
 canids “vulpines.”

As foxes do not interbreed with wolves, dogs, or
jackals, what we’re talking about here is correctly
 Canis soup, or perhaps canine soup, but not canid

Is it Canis or is it soup?
The more you dig into wild canines in North America,
 the more unclear it is where any species lines should
be drawn. So who makes up our cast of characters?
The first ingredient in Canis soup is the charismatic
 North American gray wolf or timber wolf, Canis lupus
, sometimes known as Canis lupus lupus to differentiate
 it from the dog and the dingo, who belong to subspecies.
 The gray wolf is the largest wild canine, at a 79 pound
(36 kg) average weight. (Domestic dogs of some breeds
, of course, weigh more than that.) Its coat coloring can
vary from white through blond, brown, grey, and black
. It is found in the western parts of North America.
Next is the Western coyote, Canis latrans. This
 animal is also known as the American jackal
 or prairie wolf, suggesting that there has been
 some confusion about how to distinguish canine
 species for some time. The Western coyote is a
 significantly smaller animal than the gray wolf,
weighing in closer to 20 pounds (7-14 kg). Its
coat color is less varied than the gray wolf’s,
 almost always a grey-brown as you see in
the image here.
The range of the Eastern wolf or Algonquin wolf, Canis lycaon
, is Ontario, Canada. This wolf is smaller than the gray wolf,
 and has a distinctive grey-red coat with black hairs along
 its back. We believe that this wolf was the original North
 American canine, and that Canis lupus and Canis latrans
immigrated over the land bridge from Europe. There’s a
 lot of debate about the species status of C. lycaon, as
many Eastern wolves appear to have significant C.
 latrans heritage. Some people suggest that the Eastern
 wolf is in fact a C. lupus/C. latrans hybrid, or, alternately,
 a subspecies of the gray wolf, C. lupus lycaon.
The Eastern coyote, spreading along the east coast of the
United States, is significantly larger than his Western
counterpart. It turns out to be a coyote/wolf hybrid, and
 it has been argued that it should more accurately be
called a coywolf. His wolf ancestors seem to be Canis
 lycaon —  but then again, there is debate about
 whether C. lycaon is really different from C. lupus at all.
The red wolf or Southeastern wolf is subject to truly
intense debate about species status. Is it his own species,
  Canis rufus? A subset of the gray wolf, Canis lupus rufus?
 Or a population of Eastern wolf, Canis lycaon? It has a
 beautiful red coat, and is smaller in size than the gray
 wolf. Its range was historically the southeastern U.S.,
 but it went extinct in the wild by 1980. A founder
 population of 19 animals survived in captivity, and
a reintroduction project in North Carolina was begun
n 1987. Here the red wolf is today enthusiastically
 interbreeding with coyotes, leaving conservationists
to wonder what they are conserving.

The three species of wild canines in North America today,
 then, are Canis lupus, Canis latrans, and Canis lycaon.
But we really have just two soup ingredients, wolf and
coyote. There are pure wolves (Canis lupus) and there
 are pure coyotes (Canis latrans), and there are
populations that are mixtures of more or less wolf
 and more or less coyote (Eastern wolves, Eastern
 coyotes, and red wolves). There appears to be
 some dog mixed in there, too. You can think of
gray wolf and Western coyote as ingredients, and
 everything else as soup.

Coyote flavor versus wolf flavor
The 2011 paper “A genome-wide perspective on
 the evolutionary history of enigmatic wolf-like canids”
analyzed the various soup flavors out there and
presented their findings in some easy-to-understand
 charts (below). Here, the different colors represent
 different amounts of each ingredient. The first chart
describes the Eastern wolf, here referred to as the
 Algonquin wolf, which is mostly gray wolf (green)
 and joint wolf/coyote (yellow), but also has
 significant coyote (red). The second chart describes
 the red wolf; at a glance, it is obvious that the red wolf
 has a much larger percentage of coyote genes
(again, red in this chart). These charts both use
 τ to denote the number of generations since the
 most recent admixture with another species.

The two coyote recipes pictured below describe two
subpopulations of what I have described as the Eastern
 coyote; this particular paper considers them split into
 Northeastern and Southeastern coyotes. At a glance,
 these populations are mainly pure coyote (red), with
 big dashes of mixed coyote/wolf (yellow), and small
 but notable amounts of our friend the dog (dark blue,
 light blue, and pink).

Wild canine populations challenge us to let go of our
 obsessive need to categorize. Instead of slotting a
 canine population into a single species category, we
might instead think of it as existing on a spectrum from
“wolf-like” to “coyote-like.” A strongly wolf-like canid
 would be larger, sixty to ninety pounds. It would require
a larger range, and would be a deerivore, subsisting off
of larger game. It is likely to be a shyer animal, found only
 in more rural or wild areas.

 Conversely, a strongly coyote-like canid would be much
 smaller, fifteen to thirty pounds, with a smaller range. It
might eat deer as well as rabbits and et cetera (probably
 a lot of et cetera, as coyotes are more willing to scrounge
 than wolves are). It would be more likely to be found in
suburban areas, with a greater tolerance for human
proximity. A given population of canines might fall
 anywhere on the spectrum between the two. The fact
that a spectrum actually exists is beautifully
demonstrated by the Eastern coyote, who has
mixed coyote/wolf ancestry, is mid-sized between
 coyote and wolf, and has a mid-sized range.

What’s your preferred flavor?
Does the intermixture of various ingredients in the
 formation of soupy populations matter as more than
 a gee-whiz story? To some people, the answer is
 very much yes. The conservationists who are
committing significant resources to the preservation
 of the red wolf don’t want to see the wolves that they
 reintroduce interbreed with coyotes. If the reintroduced
 wolf population blends into a coyote population, then
 are these resources actually being spent just to
support a bunch of coyotes (who have been doing
fine on their own)? At the same time, evidence shows
 that the founder population of 19 red wolves was
 already significantly coyotified, and we’re not sure
how long it’s been since there have been any pure
  Canis rufus specimens in North America.

It is, of course, possible to think about the problem
 without asking for genetics to provide the complete
answer for us. The red wolf is a red wolf, a beautiful,
 iconic animal that has lived in the southeastern
 United States throughout living memory. We know
 what the red wolf looks like (and that hasn’t been
changing much, no matter what is happening to his
 genes). We also know that it is important in a
 particular environmental niche, and that hasn’t
been changing much either.

Practically, the mixture of coyote genes into fragile
 wolf populations may be a good thing. Because
 coyotes are better at living on smaller ranges
and in closer proximity to humans than wolves are,
 they are better adapted to the realities of North
America today. As their genes mix into wolf
populations, these populations become demonstrably
more robust, more able to tolerate human presence,
and able to survive on smaller ranges. It is possible,
in fact, that coyote genes are exactly what are
eventually going to allow a red wolf population to
flourish without human assistance.

Conclusions, if we can make any
Does it matter that some of what we think of as
wolves have coyote genes? I think the answer
comes down to a cultural perception of the wolf
 as a romantic and charismatic creature, and of
the coyote as a pest. Perhaps any mixture of the
 two is perceived as diminishing the wolf. A friend
 of mine once made this analogy: if you have an
 entire bottle of fine wine, and you pour just a
teaspoon of sewage into it, now you have a bottle
 of sewage. Does any amount of coyote, no matter
 how miniscule, make the wolf impure, and less
worth conserving than it was?

As a culture, I hope we can come to appreciate
the strengths that the coyote brings to Canis
 soup, in its ability to coexist with humans in the
 modern world. It may be what saves populations
 of charismatic wolves from permanent loss. As
 we look at populations of canines in North America,
 we should learn to say that one is more coyote-like
 and another more wolf-like, on a spectrum from one
 flavor of soup to another, and appreciate the
benefits of both.

Canis soup has been used before as an example
 of the blurriness of some species lines and the
 inadequacy of many existing definitions of a species
, but it also provides some interesting insights into
the fluidity of canid morphology and behavioral
 characteristics. How did something as large and
 wild as a wolf become something as variably-sized
and tame as a dog? Moreover, how did this change
 happen (presumably) without a carefully planned
breeding program? Why is it so easy to breed types
 of dogs with such different behavioral and physical
 characteristics, especially compared to the much
 more limited variety of breeds of cat, horse, or cow?
The canine genome clearly has the capacity for
expression across a startlingly wide array of
 phenotypes. The evidence of this variety has
always been right before our eyes, but we are
 just beginning to understand its implications.

·Adams J. R., Leonard J. A., Waits L. P.
 Widespread occurrence of a domestic dog
 mitochondrial DNA haplotype in southeastern
 US coyotes. Molecular Ecology. 2003;12:541-546.
· Adams J. R., Kelly B. T., Waits L. P. Using faeca
l DNA sampling and GIS to monitor hybridization
between red wolves (Canis rufus) and coyotes
(Canis latrans). Molecular Ecology. 2003;12:2175-2186.
· Hailer Frank, Leonard Jennifer A. Hybridization
 among three native North American Canis specie
s in a region of natural sympatry. PLoS ONE. 2008;
· vonHoldt Bridgett M., Pollinger John P., Earl Dent A.,
 et al. A genome-wide perspective on the evolutionary
 history of enigmatic wolf-like canids. Genome research.
· Way Jonathan G., Rutledge Linda, Wheeldon Tyler,
White Bradley N. Genetic Characterization of Eastern
 ”Coyotes” in Eastern Massachusetts. Northeastern Naturalist. 2010;17:189-204.
· Wilson Paul J., Grewal Sonya K., Mallory Frank F.,
 White Bradley N. Genetic Characterization of Hybrid
 Wolves across Ontario. Journal of Heredity. 2009;
· Zimmer Carl. What Is a Species? Sci Am. 2008;298:
Images: Gray Wolf (Image courtesy of vargklo at
Wikipedia and Flickr); Western Coyote (Image courtesy
 of Rebecca Richardson at Wikipedia and Flickr);
 Eastern wolf (Image courtesy Christian Jansky at
Wikipedia); Eastern coyote/coywolf (Image from
  Eastern Coyote Research); Red wolf (image from
  True Wild Life); Two recipes for wolf flavored
Canis soup (vonHoldt, 2011); Two recipes for
coyote flavored Canis soup (vonHoldt, 2011)
The Dog ZombieAbout the Author: The Dog Zombie
studies dog brains by pursuing DVM (veterinary medicine)
and MS degrees. She is currently in her fourth year of the
 DVM degree, having completed her research year.
Her interests include neurobiology, neuroendocrinology,
ethology, animal behavior, canid domestication, shelter
 medicine, animal welfare, veterinary ethics, open access
 publishing, and the philosophy of science.

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