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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 17, 2016

More today on the history and current staqtus of the Red Wolf in the wild..................As of 2010, the program of minimizing coyote populations on the Barrier Islands in North Carolina was showing some success in trying to minimize the hybridizing between the two closely related species, with the goal of trying to build up the wolf population to a level where they would have enough potential mates of their own kind so as for it not to need to hook up with coyotes during the once a year winter mating season................In fact, in 2010, only 4% of the some 100-130 Red Wolves existing in North Carolina showed any degree of hybrizing with Coyotes...........This should give the USFW Service the resolve to continue and not end protections for the Red Wolf and indeed spur it to create at least two other viable populations of this canid across its historical range,,,,,,,,,,,,Perhaps the Ozarks which was the most recent locale to hear the sound of wild Red Wolves could be that next rewilding locale..........."By World War II, it had been wiped out east of the Mississippi River, and only two viable populations existed in the wild----- one in the Ozark/Ouachita mountains, the other in parts of Louisiana and Texas"............"That Ozark population was the next to fall".

Facing fate

Science comes down in favor of red wolf, but some consider its future 'dire'

  • By Andy Ostmeyer

An old Ozarks inhabitant, the red wolf,
 is down to a few dozen animals hanging
 on in 
North Carolina, and its future remains
 uncertain, even as two scientific 
conclusions — 
one recent and the other building
 throughout the past 20 years — speak in
 favor of
 making a last-ditch effort to keep it on the ark.

The red wolf once roamed throughout the 
Southeastern United States, from the 
Atlantic and Gulf coasts into Arkansas and
 southern Missouri. It may be the only wolf 
unique to the United States. By World War II
, it had been wiped out east of the Mississippi
 River, and only two viable populations existed
 in the wild: one in the Ozark/Ouachita 
mountains, the other in parts of Louisiana
 and Texas. That Ozark population was the 
next to fall.

Through the 1970s, those last survivors in
 Louisiana and Texas were removed from
the wild and sent to captive breeding
 programs, and their offspring became
 the genesis for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
o for red wolf reintroduction.
Hybridization ‘infrequent’
One critical advantage that region had over
 other parts of the red wolf’s former range 
was that its coyote population was “virtually 
zero at the time,” according to the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service. However, coyotes, 
which had continually been expanding eastward
, soon moved in. The fear has always been
 that the few remaining red wolves introduced
 in the wild would mate with coyotes — 
particularly if the population was small enough —
 and that the red wolf would hybridize itself out
of existence.
However, a new study — published just last
 month in the journal Evolutionary Applications —
 challenges those assumptions and concluded that 
“active management and natural isolating mechanisms
 may be limiting intermixing” in the recovery area.
Sampling scat in 2010, scientists found evidence
 that “hybrids composed only 4 percent of individuals
 within this landscape despite co-occurrence of the 
two species.”

At the time, the red wolf population was put at 110 to 
130 by the USFWS.
The study’s authors concluded hybridization was 
infrequent and wrote, “From the red wolf perspective,
 our results disprove the common perception that red
 wolves have been consumed by a genetic swarm
 and no longer exist as a distinct genetic entity in
 North Carolina. ... This is especially pertinent as 
the USFWS has been faced with calls to modify
 or even cancel the red wolf program due to a
 perceived lack of success.”
The study is one of a number of pieces affirming
 that the USFWS program in North Carolina worked,
 despite claims by critics who said the two species
 were interbreeding.
The finding helps remove a barrier to restoration
 of the red wolf throughout other parts of its historic 
range, including, perhaps, the Ozarks, which at least 
one previous scientific study identified as a possible 
top candidate for restoration.
Role of apex predators
The second development — the one building throughout
 20 years — is the growing body of evidence concluding
 that apex predators play a vital role regulating natural 
communities, a role that man has not been successful
 in filling. In the absence of large predators, these 
communities adopt even destructive behaviors.
Did you know that in some areas without large predators
 to regulate them, raccoons, which are nocturnal, have
 become daytime feeders, nonchalantly wandering 
farther and farther away from sheltered areas to feed, 
their young not even raising their heads to survey their
 environment anymore for danger?
The most famous laboratory for the impact of the
 wolf has been Yellowstone, where they were 
reintroduced in 1995, but it is a bit of a unique
 environment. A better example for the rest of the
 country might be studies coming out of Wisconsin,
 which found that the natural recovery of the gray wolf 
population there changed the browsing habits of 
deer in positive ways. Wisconsin, like Missouri and
 many other states, has a deer population that may
 even exceed what existed in pre-settlement times.
 Each wolf only eats an estimated 15 to 18 deer per
 year, so their impact on the state’s deer population
 (there are fewer than 1,000 wolves in Wisconsin)
 is negligible, compared with hunter harvests and 
even weather patterns.
In the absence of wolves, deer in Wisconsin consume
 tree seedlings, shrubs and forbs (wildflowers and 
other leafy plants), avoiding ferns, grasses and sedges
, and the result has been a decline in the former, 
including rare and sensitive species, and an
 increase in the latter. With wolf recovery, those
 altered deer browsing habits led to a 70 percent
 increase on average in the percent of cover of 
forbs and a 43 percent increase in species richness. 
There was similarly dramatic increase in seedlings 
and shrubs and a nearly 50 percent decrease in ferns.
Another study found that in areas of Wisconsin
 with large wolf populations, the proportion of saplings
 browsed was lower by 85 percent, sapling height
 more than doubled, forb species richness doubled
 and the recruitment of maples was 24 times as high
 as comparable areas with lower wolf densities.
Meanwhile, the potential impact the red wolf has on
 its environment has not been investigated to the 
degree of its larger cousin, in part because the red 
wolf population is so small and in part because the
 focus has been on recovery.
But there is some evidence that red wolves could 
have the same kind of top-down pressure in their
 communities, given that red wolves restored to 
barrier islands as part of the recovery proces
s aided the sea turtle population by helping control
 the population of raccoons, which eat sea turtles eggs.
‘Dire point’
All of this science is happening just as Tara Zuardo
argues that the future of the former Ozarks inhabitant
 has never been more dire. Last summer, the U.S.
 Fish and Wildlife Service announced a full review 
of its red wolf program. It said it was not terminating
 its recovery effort, but it did suspend reintroduction of
 red wolves into the wild while scientists gathered 
additional information. The decision still has not been
 announced but could come later this year.
Zuardo is an attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute,
 one of seven conservation groups arguing that 
because of pressure from politicians and some 
private landowners in the recovery area, that the
 federal agency is “deliberately abandoning the red
 wolf program.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says no decision 
has been made, but those conservation groups
 recently filed an emergency petition demanding 
increased protection efforts on behalf of the 40 or
 50 surviving red wolves believed to still exist in 
the recovery area of eastern North Carolina.
The conservation groups also want red wolf 
populations introduced at two other sites to 
rebuild the population and listed a number of 
candidates throughout the Southeast that Zuardo
 says are supported by science. Neither Missouri
 nor Arkansas were on the list, despite that fact
 that the Ozarks was among the last known
 refuges for the animal.
Meanwhile, North Carolina lawmakers recently 
called on the federal agency to end the red wolf 
recovery effort in that state, leaving the most 
endangered canid in the world without a home.
Discontinuing the program could be a hard sell, 
given that the USFWS has invested millions of
 dollars in the recovery over decades, and it 
would be a high-profile failure for an animal 
whose status as an endangered species
 predates the Endangered Species Act. Whatever
 happens, Missouri and Arkansas need to be
The red wolf evolved in tandem with the Ozarks’
 rhythm of hill and hollow and oak-hickory forests,
 and its extirpation from the region surely altered 
the natural balance. Man-made efforts to find 
and maintain that balance will remain costly, 
ineffective and fraught with unintended 
Right now, voices in North Carolina are dominating
 the debate. Granted, they are on the front lines of
 the recovery effort, but they are not the only region 
that could suffer if the red wolf is allowed to b
ecome extinct and if a natural mechanism for
 keeping nature in balance is removed forever.
Aldo Leopold, whose ties to Wisconsin and
 Missouri are deep, offers a lesson worth 
remembering: “The last word in ignorance is
 the man who says of an animal or plant, 
‘What good is it?’ If the land mechanism
 as a whole is good, then every part is good,
 whether we understand it or not. If the biota,
 in the course of aeons, has built something
 we like but do not understand, then who but 
a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? T
o keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution 
of intelligent tinkering.”

Final howl
In 1950, a small female taken near Branson 
became the last red wolf on record in Missouri
. In 1964, a world authority on wolves, Douglas
 Pimlot, came to Arkansas to evaluate the status 
of red wolves. He played recordings of wolf howls
 around the state and listened for responses. He
 got two. One was from the far southwest corner 
of the state, part of that population that still survived
 in Texas and Louisiana. The other came from the
 Boston Mountains.
With that, the howl of the red wolf faded 
from the Ozarks.

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