I suppose that some of the variability exhibited in these wolves could have resulted from crossings in the wild with dogs. Such crosses in the wild have been reported and the wolf in captivity crosses readily with dogs. Some years ago at Circle, Alaska, a wolf hung around the settlement for some time and some of the dogs were seen with it. The people thought that the wolf was a female attracted to the dogs during the breeding period. However, considerable variability is probably inherent in the species, enough perhaps to account for the variations noted in the park and in skins examined. The amount of crossing with dogs has probably not been sufficient to alter much the genetic composition of the wolf population.
-Adolph Murie from The Wolves of Mount McKinley (p.28), this quote comes from a study of variously colored wolves that he observed in 1940.
This study was published in 1944, based on a study a Murie was sent to the Mount McKinley to study the predator prey dynamics between wolves and Dall sheep.
It is true that dogs haven’t made a major splash in the wolf’s genetic heritage. It’s very hard to get a wolf bitch to breed with a dog, even in captivity. However, it may have been more common in the past for reasons I’ve mentioned in earlier posts.
And now, just this week, Murie’s rather banal speculation that appears as an aside in the study has suddenly taken on new meaning.