Cry wolf? Debate over presence of wolves in Northeast | AP News

  

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Via:  perrie-halpern  •  3 months ago  •  10 comments

By:   AP NEWS

Cry wolf? Debate over presence of wolves in Northeast | AP News
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Are wolves hunting and howling in the Northeast woods again, more than a century after they were rooted out of the region? Advocates who think so say a recent DNA analysis shows a strapping canine shot by a coyote hunter in upstate New York last winter was actually a wolf.

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Are wolves hunting and howling in the Northeast woods again, more than a century after they were rooted out of the region?

Advocates who think so say a recent DNA analysis shows a strapping canine shot by a coyote hunter in upstate New York last winter was actually a wolf. They believe there are other wolves in New York and New England, saying they could be crossing the frozen St. Lawrence River while heading south from Canada. And they want the government to protect them.

"There has to be other wolves here," said John Glowa, president of the Maine Wolf Coalition. "We have no doubt that eastern wolves are coming down and crossing the St. Lawrence. And they're being killed. And they're being called coyotes."

Not everyone is convinced.

The test results are the latest entry in a long-running disagreement in the Northeast about the presence of a charismatic wild animal dogged by a reputation as a big, bad villain in children's stories and as a livestock poacher to farmers. It's a surprisingly complicated question, in part because eastern coyotes typically share some genetic material with wolves.

"The question is: What is a wolf? And that is not as simple as it sounds," said Daniel Rosenblatt, New York Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife biologist.

Critics claim wildlife officials are slow to acknowledge wolves in their midst because they would have to accommodate the presence of a federally protected species.

State wildlife officials say there's no evidence wild wolves have reestablished themselves in region, though some concede the possibility of scattered lone wolves. They're not showing up on trail cameras, they say. Maine Wildlife Division Director Nate Webb said if wolves were back in any numbers in his state, they'd be preying on moose.

"I worked on wolves for over a decade and have been to hundreds of wolves kills personally. And it's pretty, pretty easy to tell when a moose has been killed by wolves," Webb said. "And that's just not occurring here in Maine."

Wolves were effectively shot, trapped and poisoned out of the Northeast by the start of the 20th century, leaving a gap for coyotes to fill. Smaller than wolves with pointier muzzles and ears, eastern coyotes are now common in the region.

But it's not unusual for people in the Northeast report canines seemingly too big and bulky to be coyotes, which typically weigh around 40 pounds (18 kilograms).

In New York's Adirondack Mountains, wolf advocate Joseph Butera said his friends and neighbors have seen animals bigger than German shepherds, and he constantly sees large canine tracks in the woods.

"And once in a blue moon, you'll hear a howl that you know is not a coyote," said Butera, president of the Northeast Ecological Recovery Society.

Wolf sightings can be dismissed as people wrongly identifying coyotes, domestic animals or wolf-dog hybrids.

But a 2011 academic study using carbon isotopes to distinguish wild from captive wolves suggested that at least three wild wolves were living in Vermont and New York in the previous decade.

Glowa, citing DNA analyses and other evidence, said at least a half dozen wolves were killed in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine from 1993 to 2007. He believes these cases likely represent a fraction of the wolves in the Northeast.

Advocates note that wolves can travel hundreds of miles, and that wolf populations have already rebounded around the Great Lakes and farther west.

Some canine researchers say it's not clear if there are sustained populations in the Northeast, but it appears likely wolves are wandering into the region.

"In all honesty, I don't know how there can't be, just based on the biology that canines disperse incredible distances. By pure fact alone, why would there not be? Unless they're always hunted," said Bridgett vonHoldt, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Princeton University.

In the case of the recent New York animal, Glowa said he was tipped off about pictures posted online by a hunter with his kill this winter west of Albany, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of the Canadian border. The hunter agreed to provide a tissue sample of the 85-pound (39-kilogram) animal to advocates. A lab analysis showed predominantly wolf ancestry, with a very small amount of coyote genetic material.

However, New York environmental officials say a separate DNA analysis they commissioned determined the animal was most closely identified as an eastern coyote. The conclusion was based in part on maternal DNA markers, though the analysis found ample evidence of wolf genetic material.

VonHoldt, leader of the North American Canine Ancestry Project, said both tests relied on a limited amount of genetic data. In her opinion, it was not possible to conclude the animal was a coyote or a wolf without more data.

The Princeton lab is performing additional tests on samples from the animal.

The issue any genetic analyst must face is the blurry line between wolves and eastern coyotes. Researchers believe coyotes heading east over the Great Lakes bred with wolves. The result is that eastern coyotes are a bit brawnier than those out west. Some people even use the term "coywolves."

"Where do you draw the line between the two?" asked New Hampshire Fish and Game Department wildlife biologist Patrick Tate. "How much wolf DNA can you need before it's a wild wolf? How much coyote DNA do you need before it's a coyote?"

Rosenblatt said New York not only is retesting this animal, but also is trying to collect more genetic data on coyotes so they have a better sense of makeup of the canines at large in the woods.

"We know this question is not going to go away," he said.

All contents © copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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Kavika
Professor Principal
1  Kavika     3 months ago

I grew up in an area that has the largest wolf population in the lower 48 states. They are a truly beautiful animal and sadly they have been wiped out not only in the NE but through much of the lower 48. When they are destroyed the balance of nature is out of kilter since as apex predators they keep other populations (deer) in check. 

On most Ojibwe reservations in MN, ND, WI and MI wolves are protected no hunting is allowed, to us, they represent a link to our creation story and are a very important part of the circle of life. 

I hope that there are wolves coming north from Canada into the NE.

This is a photo by Conrad Tan of a wolf in Northen Minnesota very close to where I grew up.

512

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Guide
1.1  Greg Jones  replied to  Kavika @1    3 months ago

That sure ain't no coyote!

They need to be allowed to naturally spread and increase.

 
 
 
GregTx
Junior Participates
1.1.1  GregTx  replied to  Greg Jones @1.1    3 months ago
They need to be allowed to naturally spread and increase.

Absolutely, as do the red wolves..

384

384

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
2  Sparty On    3 months ago

For years the state government in Michigan denied the existence of Wolf and Cougar in our UP forests until the emergence of private trail cameras proved it beyond a doubt.    I’m sure the same is only a matter of time in the NE.

Meanwhile Wolves were and are reeking havoc with Michigan’s Whitetail population.    A properly managed Wolf hunt is entirely appropriate and reasonable IMO in an effort to provide a truly comprehensive wildlife management program.

 
 
 
GregTx
Junior Participates
2.1  GregTx  replied to  Sparty On @2    3 months ago

I completely agree. Introducing a predator back into an ecosystem that it hasn't been for awhile is going to require direct management to make sure that it doesn't completely eradicate the prey.

 
 
 
Split Personality
Professor Principal
2.1.1  Split Personality  replied to  GregTx @2.1    3 months ago

Because humans are so good at wildlife management?

We hunt white tail and mule deer because they have few non human predators anymore

so cows and sheep can proliferate for our food and clothing.

Also so "we" can have an excuse to own AR15s, can't forget the 2nd Amendment./s

 
 
 
GregTx
Junior Participates
2.1.3  GregTx  replied to  Split Personality @2.1.1    3 months ago

Whom would you suggest that be in charge of wildlife management?

We hunt whitetail, muleys, elk, moose, and pronghorn because we always have.

Competition and economy, the same reasons that we've virtually eliminated so many of these predators.

Ahh, so a political screed then?...

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
2.1.4  Sparty On  replied to  Split Personality @2.1.1    3 months ago
Because humans are so good at wildlife management?

I tend to agree that our state and federal agencies could do better but the fact remains in most states it’s the hunters and fisherman “humans” that fund the lions-share of wildlife management efforts with license fees and support of groups like DU and TU.

We hunt white tail and mule deer because they have few non human predators anymore

Not true in Michigan.    See 2 above.

so cows and sheep can proliferate for our food and clothing.

One wonders what point you’re trying to make with this comment.    I’m guessing you are worried about their farts causing global warming?    Or perhaps it’s a vegetarian/vegan issue.

Also so "we" can have an excuse to own AR15s, can't forget the 2nd Amendment./s

Ridiculous.    5.56 AR’s make shitty large game weapons and I’ve never seen one being used to hunt whitetail or mulies.

Never.

 
 
 
Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
2.1.5  Mark in Wyoming   replied to  Sparty On @2.1.4    3 months ago

We can use .223 rem / 5.56 nato on certain things here , but deer and anything larger are not on that list , usual rule is it has to be apretty soft bodied animal , deer dont exactly fit that catagory because of weight and size .

here we can use those cals IF the bullet weight is in the correct range(70 grns and up) and the game is suitable , im planning on using a single shot with a .223 barrel next month to fill a pronghorn tag i still have , matter of fact just had some prong horn liver and onions for supper .....nom nom nom .... even harvested in jerimiah Johnson territory , you know , the guy also know as "Liver eating Johnson ".....

 
 
 
Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
2.1.6  Mark in Wyoming   replied to  Sparty On @2.1.4    3 months ago
it’s the hunters and fisherman “humans” that fund the lions-share of wildlife management efforts with license fees and support of groups like DU and TU.

Dont forget the Pittman -Robinson act , a self imposed law by sportsman to tax their equipment , to only be used for wildlife conservation .

 
 

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