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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 22:58:45 09/07/16

In Reply to: Rethinking the North American wolf posted by davem2


This is good stuff! The implications of these findings are substantial for agencies involved in listing or trying to list individual canid species. I think this may say more about the fragility of the systems we humans create than the critters themselves. I like seeing both Doug Smith and Mike Phillips quoted in the article. Some may not be aware that Mike was the original head of the wolf reintroduction program within Yellowstone before he left to work for the Turner Endangered Species Fund.

Here is one item that has me scratching my head. I have read widely on both coyotes and wolves over the past 30 years, and have even delivered programs on coyotes for the NPS in Yellowstone to park visitors. There is a large body of evidence to support the argument that coyotes have an innate wildness that humans are almost always unable to remove from them, even when humans raise pups from birth, isolated from adult coyotes. Anecdotal evidence, collected from the reports of those who have tried to tame coyotes, offers a persuasive argument that coyotes have an inherent wildness that is incredibly persistent. At the same time, we have seen countless examples in Yellowstone, with a coyote population not under pressure from humans, work amazing manipulations to procure food from humans (like developing a limp along the roadside whenever vehicles approach).

On the flip side, I have read of numerous examples of wolves being tamed. Often, it is difficult to sort out whether you are hearing of true wild wolves or hybrids between domestic dogs and wolves. I can't tell you how frequently I hear people talk about a particular canine being "part wolf".

In Yellowstone, which is a great living lab, we have seen a marked difference between coyotes and wolves, in terms of how easy it was to rid the park of wolves. Looking beyond Yellowstone, we see wolves having lost so much of the territory they once occupied, while the oh so opportunistic coyote has expanded its range threefold since 1850!

Regardless of just how long ago coyotes and wolves separated into distinct lineages, from my perspective, they have had ample time to evolve very different physical characteristics (coyotes being a third the size of wolves on average) and quite different survival strategies. In many respects, coyotes are the ultimate survivor, perhaps the co-ckroach of the mammal world.


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