Reintroduction of Wolves to the Adirondacks
By reinstating the wolf in the
Adirondacks, are we creating super hybrid coyote-wolves?
The heavy logging in Algonquin Park during the 1840s caused deer to
move in, and the gray wolves were force to head north. There are many
debates about the pros and cons of the reintroduction of wolves into
Defenders of Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are
committed to the return of wolves of the Northern and Eastern variety,
also known as Canis
Lycaon, to be released in the Adirondacks, because they were wiped
out in the northeast.
The very survival of the wolf depends on having a sufficient number
of wolf populations that are large enough to provide for the continuing
viability of the species. Second, wolf restoration is necessary to return
a measure of ecological integrity to at least some representative examples
of native ecosystems, restoring lost biological balance. Third, continuing
wolf restoration makes the economic, recreational, spiritual and aesthetic
benefits of wild wolf populations accessible to as many Americans as
possible. For these reasons, Defenders of Wildlife seeks the fullest
practical restoration of wolves in the lower 48 states.
However, according to recent DNA research conducted by scientists at
Trent University in Ontario and the State University College of Environmental
Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York, Eastern coyotes are actually
wolf-coyote hybrids. This crossbreeding most likely took place in southeastern
Canada in the early 1900s. Researchers cited the lack of a wildlife
corridor between the Adirondacks and Canada's Algonquin Park as a possible
reason for the hybridization between the Algonquin wolf (a kind of red
wolf) and Eastern coyote. The DNA analysis of the last wolf shot in
the Adirondacks, bagged by Reuben Cary in 1893, reveals it to be the
smaller Algonquin wolf of southeastern Canada. Geneticists have placed
in the same species as the red wolf of the eastern Untied States. Red
wolves weigh from 55-65 pounds and rely on deer and beaver for food,
and they are the only known wolves to breed with coyotes.
In the late 1980s, red wolves were restored to the Alligator River area
of eastern North Carolina, a region
where coyote densities were the lowest in the state. However, ten years
later, biologists reported that 20 percent of these wolves had already
bred with coyotes and that in two decades the wolves would cease to
exist as a distinct species unless radical measures were taken, such
as removing every coyote seen miles around.
Coyotes have been entrenched in the Adirondacks since at least the 1930s.
They are extremely resourceful and can be almost impossible to get rid
of. Also, studies show that newly released animals' travel widely and
with a network of roads in the Adirondacks there would be casualties.
Trappers at the North Bay (Ontario) Fur Auction are complaining because
the gray wolf pelts they are bringing in are smaller and being graded
as eastern Canadian wolves, which are worth only a third of the gray.
Prominent wolf biologist David Mech of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services
has stated unequivocally that wolves can survive in the Adirondacks.
Some arguments are that the coyote doesn't fill the same niche as the
wolf, and that there are enough wolves dispersing to the Adirondacks
to provide a fresh gene flow to a restored population, thus preventing
probable genetic depression. Two initiatives underway to safeguard and
enhance the interchange of wolf genes are to protect all the crucial
wildlife corridors between Algonquin Park in Ontario and the Adirondack
Are we being over-run by hybrid coyote-wolves?
Eastern Wolf Findings:
a laboratory located at the University of Trent, Peterborough,
Ontario, Canada, Dr. Bradley White and his associates have
spent the last four years collecting 2,043 wild canids to
analyze their genetic makeup. These specimens have come
from throughout Ontario, New York, and northern New England.
He used as control groups coyote DNA from Texas and gray
wolf DNA from Canada's northwest territories. Below are
some of his findings.
Algonquin Park wolves are not small versions of gray wolves,
but they are identical to red wolves. They find that there
are thousands of Algonquin - red wolves.
Eastern Canadian wolves evolved in North America along with
the coyote while gray wolves evolved in Asia then crossed
over to North America. The small eastern Canadian coyote
wolves are the only ones that mate with coyotes in the wild.
In Ontario's Algonquin Park, the Eastern Canadian wolf is
holding its own, but to the south they interbreed with coyotes.
At the northern end of the park and beyond, they mate with
gray wolves. The results are large coyotes (from the mix)
and smaller gray wolves where both wolves' territories overlap.
By using skull size and two DNA markers, researchers can
trace the ancestry of the specimens and even tell with a
hybrid if it was the result of a male wolf mating with a
female coyote or visa versa.
So far in overlapping areas it is still the male wolf breeding
with a female coyote, and the off spring if they stay in
a wolf pack are subservient because size matters and these
hybrids are smaller than pure wolves. If there was a change
and dominant female wolves bred with male coyotes, there
could be major problems within the wolf pack structure because
the size of the offspring would be more uniformed.
To the north of Algonquin Park, the female Eastern Canadian
wolf seems to be mating with the male gray wolves, so there
hasn't been a drastic drop-off in size, since some of these
big gray wolves weigh well over one hundred pounds. They
are predators of moose and caribou. The Eastern Canadian
wolf weighs on average 50-70 pounds, and they hunt smaller
pray like deer and beavers.