Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
New research finds Mexican gray wolves aren’t part dog after all
From 1977 to 1980, Roy McBride combed pine and oak forests high in the Sierra Madre Occidental range of northern Mexico, searching for the last remaining wild Mexican gray wolves.
He had been there before, hunting wolves for ranchers, even patiently outwitting one of the most notorious wolves in local folklore. It had thwarted his traps for months, until finally falling prey to one he disguised in ashes and baited with a skunk hide.
But this time, McBride’s client wanted wolves alive.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wanted to breed more endangered Mexican gray wolves in captivity to save them from extinction. Eradication campaigns had eliminated them from the wild in the United States, so the agency hired McBride to capture wolves across the border.
He caught three of the seven wolves in whose DNA the fate of the entire Mexican gray wolf subspecies would depend. But he was shocked when he saw some of the other founding wolves in the captive breeding program. They looked like dogs to him.
“The real reason that many of the … animals look like dogs is because that is what they are,” McBride later wrote in a 1997 letter to David Parsons, the agency’s Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator at the time. The recovery program’s opponents have argued that Mexican gray wolves already went extinct, accusing program managers of raising a wolf bloodline contaminated by dogs or coyotes.
But the University of Arizona study found no evidence that any of the founding wolves were wolf-dog hybrids or that dogs had recently hybridized with Mexican gray wolves.
“Our work is the largest genetic study, in sample size, of Mexican wolves to date,” the researchers wrote in their findings. They analyzed 87 Mexican gray wolves, comparing DNA samples to that of dogs and other gray wolves. It’s still an open question if wolves have interbred with coyotes and to what extent, but genetic work by the Fish and Wildlife Service suggests they have not, said Robert Fitak, one of the study’s authors.
He and the other researchers focused their attention on dogs over coyotes, he said, because it was a higher-priority question.
Their research could have dealt a blow to the recovery program if it had found wolf-dog hybridization...MORE