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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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Monday, September 29, 2014

L.B is a dedicated reader of this blog and a life long naturalist.................Today, he provides us with his take on the "canid soup" that likely runs through the population of North Carolina Coyotes and remnant Eastern Wolves(The Eastern Wolf Restoration Program is under review currently by the USFW)..........While I have commented previously that the Red Wolf Restoration should continue at least until there is a large enough population that might insulate itself from Coyote admixing, many, including L.B. take the position that the most resilient canid, and one that might persist into the forever despite our human interference very well could be a hybrid "Coywolf"(so named by Massachusetts biologist Jon Way)..............Able to hunt both alone and in groups, the Coywolf(Eastern Coyote) surely has demonstrated a "wily" ability to persist under all type of persecution unlike the Gray and Eastern Wolves whose more social pack nature(once disrupted, chaos and confusion and often death of remaining packmates results) has allowed humans an easier hand at their disruption and extirpation from huge expanses of their former ranges..............Nonetheless, lets get some more of those Eastern Wolves into the southeast and beyond,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and then let nature take its course producing the most fit canid to both fulfill deer catching ecological functions as well as putting up with us, the ultimate predator on the planet


I work at the N. C. Zoo, where we captive breed Red Wolves, and some pups born here have been successfully placed in wild Red Wolf dens to be adopted and raised wild--both a population boost and genetic diversity boost for the 100 to 150 wild Red Wolves on the coast in N. C. We JUST had one of the programs representatives come and give a lecture at our zoo, updating us on how things are going(GREAT program! I hope it continues--there is an effort afoot to end it, alas!)).

Red Wolf(Eastern Wolf)

 I actually asked if anyone in her program knew of any "coywolf" genes in N. C.--they HAVE been documented as far south as Virginia so far. She didn't have any current knowledge on that, but there IS going to be an URBAN COYOTE study in Charlotte, N. C. starting up, and no doubt they'll be doing genetic tests.

 I'll be VERY surprised if various different elements of the "canis soup" don't turn up! I personally saw a local news segment a few years back where someone got film of a wild canid alongside a highway near Raleigh, N. C. To me, it did NOT look like your typical coyote--the muzzle was much heavier(1st thing I noticed), and it looked to me to be at least part Red Wolf(and regularly observing some of this "old bloodline" of "pure" Red Wolves here at the N. C. Zoo, I'm purty familiar with the differences). No doubt lots of crossbreeding has gone on--an effort is made to try and control this(a WASTE, in my opinion! 

Eastern Coyote(Coyowolf)

I'd personally take those crossbred pups and disperse them elsewhere, to get AS MUCH of that old Red Wolf genetic influence around as possible!), but no way can they get to 100% of the crosses, who then no doubt disperse widely upon maturity. Same thing happened up in the Smoky Mountain National Park back in the 1990's--though "officially" canceled(due to various problems, INCLUDING Red Wolves crossbreeding regularly with the local populous coyotes!), and "officially" reported to have retrieved all the "pure" Red Wolves, MANY hybrids remained and have continued to influence the coyote population there, as well! 

Western Coyote(they bred with Eastern Wolves to create Eastern Coyotes(Coywolves)

So that's at BOTH ENDS of the state of N. C., AND eastern Tennessee, AND these guys can disperse for many miles, so whether officialdom wants to acknowledge it, I personally believe there ARE quite a few wild coy-wolf types out there with some of the old bloodline Red Wolf influence! But remember, that's NOT official(yet...) And I say, power to them! The return of the NEW "Red Wolves"!!!.....L.B.
Red Wolves and Coyotes

Are red wolves and coyotes the same 
species?No, red wolves (Canis rufus) and coyotes
 (Canis latrans) are two separate species. 
However, they are closely related 
evolutionarily and do share a recent 
common ancestor (see Chambers et al.
 2012 for full details).  Red wolves 
are larger; measuring about five feet 
long nose to tail and weighing 45-80
 pounds.  Coyotes are approximately 
 three feet in length, and weigh 25-35
 pounds.  These are averages, and 
 there can be some size overlap between
 the species given individual variation.

Red Wolf:                                            Coyote:
Red WolfCoyote
Photo credits: B.

/USFWS (red wolf), Jerry
 Murray (coyote)

Red wolves are mostly brown and buff

 colored with some black along their 
backs; there is sometimes a reddish 
color behind their ears, on their muzzle,
 and toward the backs of their legs. 
 They have tall pointed ears and long,
 slender legs with large feet. Coyotes 
can be observed with a variety of 
color variations ranging from buff, 
brown, grey, or black. Generally, 
coyotes tend to have a longer, 
narrower muzzle than red wolves.

Red Wolf:                      Coyote:
Red WolfCoyote
Photo credits: 

B. Bartel/USFWS

Do red wolves breed with coyotes?The short answer is yes, they can.
 Red wolves (Canis rufus), gray 
wolves (Canis lupus), coyotes 
(Canis latrans), and domestic dogs 
(Canis lupus familiaris) and are 
capable of interbreeding and 
producing fertile offspring.  
While social structures and
 territoriality usually prevent 
such interbreeding, the 
combination of a small red 
wolf population, a large coyote
 population, and limited space
 in the recovery area can result
 in a breakdown of the natural

During the initial site selection 

process for the red wolf 
restoration program, the
 northeastern North Carolina
 (NENC) Red Wolf Recovery
 Area was uninhabited by
 coyotes.  However, coyotes
 have expanded their range 
eastward; individuals were 
observed in NENC beginning 
in the early-1990s.

  As a result, an adaptive 
management plan was needed
 to eliminate the threat of 
hybridization.  Research has 
 demonstrated that sterilized
 coyotes remain territorial and 
continue to defend space. It is 
this concept of holding space 
that is being applied to manage
 hybridization by providing 
managers time, information, 
and a higher degree of control
 over the recovery landscape, 
while simultaneously providing
 reproductive advantage to the 
red wolf.

   Ultimately, sterilization is a 
method that allows territorial 
space to be held until that animal
 can be replaced naturally or by 
management actions. Sterile 
 “placeholder” coyotes are then 
naturally replaced when the larger 
red wolves displace or kill the 
coyote.  Occasionally, we may
 remove a coyote from an area 
when we have the opportunity 
to insert a wild or translocated
 red wolf into that territory or 
if we have a red wolf dispersing
 into that area.

The bottom line is that space is 

limited in the recovery area.
 Ideally, within the restored red
 wolf population in NENC, that
 space is initially best occupied 
by breeding pairs of red wolves, 
non-breeding mixed (red wolf/
coyote) pairs, and non-breeding
 coyote pairs.  By sterilizing 
 coyotes, introgression of non-
wolf genes will be controlled 
and territories will be unavailable
 for colonization by breeding 
coyote pairs or red wolf-coyote 
pairs.  As the red wolf population
 grows, having space available for
 dispersing red wolves becomes 
 increasingly important, and this
 space is provided through natural 
 interspecific competition and/or 
management actions.

Coyote being fitted
A coyote being fitted for a radio-telemetry collar. 
Photo by B. Bartel/USFWS.

Currently, in addition to the ~70+ radio-
collared red wolves, we are actively 
tracking and monitoring 60+ sterilized, 
placeholder coyotes.  They are captured,
 processed, and released similar to red
 wolves (with the additional step of 
sterilization at a local veterinary hospital).

Last Updated: 9/23/14


Anonymous said...

It might be misconstrued that I am negative about the Red Wolf restoration program(in N. C. or elsewhere), in favor of just letting Nature take it's course with the "new" Coywolves, but nothing could be farther from the truth! I'm FOR them ALL!!! But let me clarify myself better here--a lot of "purists" get the WRONG idea that just because I say "Yahoo" to the spread of Eastern coyotes and the amazingly(wink-wink) Red-wolflike Coywolves, that somehow I consider the "pure" Red Wolf program unnecessary because I personally believe(and I do!) that Red Wolves are just a stable-ized(naturally occurring) Grey Wolf X Coyote hybrid--but just because I believe they are a NATURALLY occurring "hybrid" DOESN'T mean I don't think they have value or should not be preserved AT ALL COSTS!!! IF Red Wolves ARE hybrids, I say "SO WHAT?"--why would that make them less valuable? There is much speculation that isolated evolution alone is NOT responsible for the emergence of new species--that hybridization throughout the history of the planet has had it's impact--and this relationship between wolves, coyotes, coywolves, and red wolves is THE PERFECT chance to study this phenomenon! And just as SENSIBLE dog breeders(NOT including those that breed only to win conformation dog shows here, but those putting FUNCTION, HEALTH, and TEMPERMENT before winning ribbons at dogshows!!!) try and preserve diverse bloodlines for genetic health and working ability, the OLD, ORIGINAL BLOODLINES of the Red Wolves are INVALUABLE in the same way! And yes, by all means try and preserve some area(s) where this old bloodline can be preserved! But ALLOW it to get leached into the local "canis soup" as well, DON'T euthanize hybrid pups between coyotes and red wolves--take them away from your old bloodline preservation area, but allow them to breed BACK into the general coyote/coywolf populations in other areas! "Reswamp" the coyote gene pool with Red Wolf genes every chance you get! It happens ANYWAY, despite all the "purists'" efforts to prevent it! This will only help to encourage the proper Eastern Wolf/"New Red Wolf" that is emerging to retake it's proper niche in the eastern forests of North America. People (Wolf biologists and show dog breeders!) need to GET OVER this anal anti-"hybrid" attitude, and EMBRACE it! But DO continue to preserve that "old bloodline"/"Pure" Red Wolf howsomever you can. In no way shape or form do I consider the red wolf program a waste! SO MUCH has been learned from it, and will CONTINUE to be learned! And if this program will see the POSITIVE, NATURAL side of hybridization, then they can stop apologizing and refuting all the hybrid claims used against Red Wolves by the opponents of such, and the opponents of the Program will have to find some other thing to whine about! But I DO realize this IS NOT a popular view by virtually anyone else involved--YET. But it COULD(and SHOULD) be....L.B.

Coyotes, Wolves and Cougars forever said...

L>B.............I posted your comments