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article imageNorth America has one wolf species left, the others are hybrids

By Karen Graham     Jul 28, 2016 in Environment
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recognizes three wolf species in North America, the gray wolf, the red wolf, and the Eastern wolf. But it turns out that two of the species are not true wolves at all, but hybrids.
Research conducted by University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) biologists and published on Wednesday presents strong evidence that the "scientific reason" advanced by the USFWS for removing the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act is incorrect.
Using DNA sequencing technology, genomic analysis of the three North American wolf species suggests that these majestic animals actually have a mixed genetic history,
Taxidermy exhibit of an eastern wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) killed on February 8th  1907 in Washtenow ...
Taxidermy exhibit of an eastern wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) killed on February 8th, 1907 in Washtenow County.
Wystan
In other words, UCLA scientists are saying that after extensive genetic studies, the gray wolf is the last remaining wolf species on the continent, and all others are simply hybrids. Furthermore, after studies of the genomes of the red and eastern wolves, gray wolves and coyotes, they found "no evidence for distinct eastern or red wolf species," says study author Robert Wayne.
The primary reason for putting the gray wolf under the protection of the Endangered Species Act was because its geographical range included the Great Lakes region and 29 Eastern states, as well as much of North America.
The red wolf (Canis rufus).
The red wolf (Canis rufus).
USFWS/Wolf Haven International
The Los Angeles Times is reporting the study found that the red wolf (found in the southern U.S.), has about 25 percent gray wolf and 75% coyote ancestry, while the eastern wolf of central Ontario has about 75 percent gray wolf and 25 percent coyote ancestry.
Wayne says, "We found no evidence for an eastern wolf that has a separate evolutionary legacy. The gray wolf should keep its endangered species status and be preserved because the reason for removing it is incorrect. The gray wolf did live in the Great Lakes area and in the 29 eastern states.”
Then, in a document published in 2014, the USFWS declared a new wolf species called the eastern wolf occupied the Great Lakes region and eastern states, not the gray wolf. For this reason, the USFWS decided the original listing under the Endangered Species Act "was invalid."
California Valley Coyote (Canis latrans ochropus) in the San Gabriel Mountains  California.
California Valley Coyote (Canis latrans ochropus) in the San Gabriel Mountains, California.
YouTube
The final recommendation by the USFWS stated that wolves should be removed from protection under the act, with the exception of the Mexican gray wolf, the most endangered wolf in North America. The decision to remove the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act is set to be determined this fall.
The problem with hybrids, or is it a problem?
The study addresses the problem of the red and eastern wolf species considered hybrids. First, the USFWS does not recognize hybrids as a species entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act. If so, the red wolf would lose its protection under the act and the millions of dollars spent on captive breeding and recovery efforts.
Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh suggests the red wolf's situation under the Endangered Species Act shows the USFWS needs to catch up with today's world, reports the New Scientist.
“What we’re finding with today’s high-resolution genetic tools is that hybrids are everywhere,” he says. “To say it’s a hybrid, so it’s not worth protecting, just doesn’t work anymore.”
More about Gray wolf, UCLA study, Endangered species act, Hybrids, genetic study
 
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