As a response to one of the comments I received today, I’m going to show you photos of an Eastern coyote from upstate New York and a red wolf. The two animals are virtually identical, and they have almost the same amount of coyote ancestry.
Why one is an endangered species and the other something that can be killed at virtually any time of the year is one of those little puzzles that one ought to think about more carefully.
Eastern coyote from New York state (Canis latrans):
Red wolf (supposed Canis rufus):
If you saw these two animals running around in the woods, you would think they were the same species.
And they are!
And they have very similar sizes. Eastern coyotes vary from 25 to 70 pounds, and red wolves vary from 40 to 80 pounds.
There is a definite overlap in size.
And there is also an ecological overlap. Northeastern coyotes are efficient predators of deer, as are red wolves.
Both of these animals derive from recent introgression of wolf genes into coyotes populations. Red wolves are 76 percent coyote on average, and Eastern coyotes in New York State average 82 percent coyote.
The red wolf is nothing more than a fancy “breed” of coyote that was trapped out of East Texas and Louisiana in the 1970′s and then released into reserves in the Southeast. These reserves spend most of their red wolf management time trapping out coyotes, which readily breed with red wolves. There is no species barrier between red wolves and Eastern coyotes.
Why would there be?
Now, there are species barriers that prevent frequent between coyotes and wolves and dogs. If there weren’t, coyotes would have become almost entirely dog in ancestry by now. They hybridize at the margins.
Red wolves will mate with coyotes as readily as they’ll mate with each other.
This is why this whole thing makes no sense to me.
The genetic evidence shows that red wolves are as much coyote as coyotes roaming freely in the Eastern US.
But the coyote is a common and often persecuted species.
And the red wolf is a highly endangered species!
There is something wrong with that.
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