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Grey Wolf - Canis lupus
Study shows only three wolves remain on Isle Royale

by Aaron Boehm
Posted: 04.17.2015 at 3:06 PM

HOUGHTON -- Researchers from Michigan Tech only observed three wolves during their annual Winter Study of Isle Royale.

According to researchers, this marks an unprecedented low, down from nine wolves observed last winter. Scientists also observed around 1,250 moose and two visiting wolves on the island.

This is the 57th year that researchers have been observing wolves and moose in Isle Royale, making it the longest running predator-prey study in the world. The growing gap between the predator and prey populations is a trend they have been noticing for the past four years.

"It's not the presences of wolves that matters so much, it's whether wolves are performing their ecological function," said John Vucetich, associate professor of wildlife ecology.

For the full report, click here. : Ecological Studies of the Wolves on Isle Royale 2014 - 2015 
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Ceratodromeus Wrote:Wolves kill 19 elk in suspected 'surplus kill'
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Nineteen elk were killed by wolves earlier this week in what’s being called a “surplus kill,” according to Wyoming wildlife officials. 

Wolves killed seventeen elk calves and two adult cows near Bondurant, Wyo., County 10 reported. 

It’s not unusual for wolves to kill one or two elk a night, but to have 19 killed in one night “is fairly rare,” John Lund of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department told County 10. 

"A lot of people call it surplus killing," Lund told the outlet. "It has been observed on other occasions, just not very often." 

A surplus killing is when an animal kills more of its prey than it can eat and then abandons the surplus. 

For the most part, wolves do not “kill for sport,” Mike Jimenez, the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told County 10. 

"We did an eight-year study, and we looked at elk feed grounds. What we found is that generally wolves did not kill what they did not eat,” he told the outlet.
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Critically endangered and ancient Himalayan wolf needs global conservation attention

Date: April 25, 2016
Source: Pensoft Publishers

[Image: 160425112649_1_900x600.jpg]
A pair of Himalayan wolves in their natural habitat.
Credit: Madhu Chetri; CC-BY 4.0

Although the Himalayan wolf is visibly distinct from its European cousin, its current distribution has mostly been a matter of assumption, rather than evident truth. The most ancient wolf lineage, known to science, has been listed as Critically Endangered in the National Red List.

Now, an international research team, led by Madhu Chetri, graduate student at the Hedmark University of Applied Sciences, Norway, report the wolf from Nepal's largest protected area, thus confirming its existence in the country. Their findings are published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

When compared to the European wolf, this one stands out with its smaller size, unusually longer muzzle and stumpy legs. Another clearly distinctive feature is the white colouration around the throat, chest, belly and inner part of the limbs. On the other hand, its characteristic woolly body fur has given the subspecies the common name 'woolly wolf'.

However, the distinctiveness of the Himalayan wolf is far more than skin-deep. The authors note that recent studies have already revealed that these wolves have split as a separate branch within the 'tree of life' so long ago that they are divergent from the whole globally distributed wolf-dog clade. Having undergone such an isolated evolution, the Himalayan wolf is considered of particular conservation concern.

However, the populations are still suffering heavy mortality. As a part of their research, the authors conducted both formal and informal interviews with about four hundred local herders, livestock owners, nomads and village elite to find out more about the status of the human-wolf conflict, as well as their attitudes and perceptions. As a result, they found out that the wolves are considered to pose a threat for the local livelihoods. They were persecuted and killed as a means of depredation.

"These genetically distinct Himalayan wolves deserve special conservation attention, at the same time that the conservation of this species in a context of human-wildlife conflict is challenging," conclude the scientists. "A species action plan needs be formulated that develops mechanisms to minimize conflict, and strategies for motivating local communities towards wolf conservation."

Story Source: Pensoft Publishers. "Critically endangered and ancient Himalayan wolf needs global conservation attention." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 25, 2016).

Journal Reference:
Madhu Chetri, Yadvendradev Jhala, Shant Raj Jnawali, Naresh Subedi, Maheshwar Dhakal, Bibek Yumnam. Ancient Himalayan wolf (Canis lupus chanco) lineage in Upper Mustang of the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal. ZooKeys, 2016; 582: 143 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.582.5966

The taxonomic status of the wolf (Canis lupus) in Nepal’s Trans-Himalaya is poorly understood. Recent genetic studies have revealed the existence of three lineages of wolves in the Indian sub-continent. Of these, the Himalayan wolf, Canis lupus chanco, has been reported to be the most ancient lineage historically distributed within the Nepal Himalaya. These wolves residing in the Trans-Himalayan region have been suggested to be smaller and very different from the European wolf. During October 2011, six fecal samples suspected to have originated from wolves were collected from Upper Mustang in the Annapurna Conservation Area of Nepal. DNA extraction and amplification of the mitochondrial (mt) control region (CR) locus yielded sequences from five out of six samples. One sample matched domestic dog sequences in GenBank, while the remaining four samples were aligned within the monophyletic and ancient Himalayan wolf clade. These four sequences which matched each other, were new and represented a novel Himalayan wolf haplotype. This result confirms that the endangered ancient Himalayan wolf is extant in Nepal. Detailed genomic study covering Nepal’s entire Himalayan landscape is recommended in order to understand their distribution, taxonomy and, genetic relatedness with other wolves potentially sharing the same landscape.

Attached to this post:[Image: attach.png] Ancient_Himalayan_wolf__Canis_lupus_chanco__lineage_in_Upper_Mustang_of_the_Annapurna_Conservation_Area__Nepal.pdf (2.31 MB)
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Warsaw2014 Wrote:Craniometrical characteristics of wolves Canis lupus
from Poland
Henryk OKARMA and Tadeusz BUCHALCZYK* 

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"Wolves (Canis lupus) and black bears (Ursus americanus) were sympatric throughout much of their
former ranges in North America and still co-inhabit large parts of Canada, Alaska, and Minnesota (Hall and
Kelson, 1959; Mech, 1970). However, the only published records of interactions between them are a
trapper's description of wolves killing a black bear of unknown age and sex (Young and Goldman, 1944)
and a report by Joslin (1966) of a black bear killing an adult female wolf near a den of pups. In addition, C.
C. Dickson (pers. comm.) found that wolves killed an immature black bear in northern Ontario on 18 May
1979. We now report on interactions between wolves and bears observed during concurrent telemetry
studies of both species in northeastern Minnesota between 1969 and 1979 (Rogers, 1977; Mech, 1979).
Territories of wolves and bears commonly overlapped in this area.
On 16 June 1972, a radio-tagged, 11-year-old female bear was observed from the air as she walked
toward an adult wolf lying in a grassy opening. The bear was in her territory, and the
wolf was less than 100 m from an area of well-worn beaver (Castor canadensis) trails that wolves
frequented. With approximately 30 m separating the two animals, the bear suddenly ran toward the wolf,
which sprang up and was pursued vigorously in circles and zig-zags for approximately 25 s before it
escaped into dense streamside brush. The bear walked back in the direction from which she came. On 18
September of that year, the same female bear remained at her bedsite while a wolf pack howled repeatedly
within 250 m of her. During the next 4 days, she constructed her den less than 300 m from a rendezvous
site that was in constant use by the wolf pack.
On 23 May 1973, a radio-tagged, 6-year-old female bear was observed from the air 6 m up in a tree 25
to 50 m from an active wolf den. At least one yearling wolf lay about 10 m from the tree facing the bear.
The 58 to 62 kg bear was within her territory.
On 12 June 1973, a wolf approached to within 5 m of a tree in which a bear had left her cubs while she
fed in a garbage pit 25 m away. The mother immediately ran from the pit and closely pursued the wolf for
30 to 50 m. On another occasion at the garbage pit (12 August 1976), four wolves approached but did not
enter the pit where two adult bears fed. Two subadult bears sparred playfully near the pit and within 10 m
of an adult wolf. Suddenly, one of the subadult bears stopped sparring and pursued the wolf 30 m to forest
cover. The wolf reappeared shortly but was not chased again even though it approached to within 10 or 15
m of the sparring bears. Two or three more bears arrived, and the wolves left.
Of 206 occupied bear dens examined one to eight times each, only two showed signs of being visited by
wolves. Additional sign possibly was covered by snow. Dens differed in characteristics from secure caves
or burrows to nests constructed above ground. In one of the two visits, tracks indicated that a wolf pack
gathered at the den of a radio-collared, 5-year-old female on 10 November 1970. Her den was a 2-m deep
burrow under a stump and had a single entrance that seemed barely large enough for the 43-kg bear to
enter. The bear was shot in the abdomen 5 months earlier and died of her injuries about 24 November.
However, the bear was still vigorous at the time of the visit (as evidenced by her subsequent travels), and
there was no sign of physical contact between the bear and the wolves.
In the remaining instance of wolves visiting a bear den, a wolf pack that included radio-collared
members killed a radio-collared, 16-year-old female bear and her newborn cubs on 17 or 18 February 1977.
The wolf pack was known to consist of nine members, although only six were seen from the air on 18
February when the pack was resting near the partially eaten carcass. The bear's weight at the time of the
attack was about 72 kg. Her den site, a shallow depression under five logs 10 to 30 cm in diameter,
afforded her no protection on either side. Only 35 cm of snow had accumulated by 18 February, and the
unusually light snowfall did not cover the den as it would have in most winters.
Analyses of a photograph taken from a plane on 18 February and sign observed at the site on 21 March
1977 provided evidence of the interaction. The wolves apparently attacked from both sides and drove the
bear from the den. The bear fought her way 22 m to the nearest big tree, a mature aspen (Populus
tremuloides), leaving a path of broken brush and bear fur. At the tree, the fight continued; trampled brush,
part of a wolf canine tooth, tufts of wolf fur, and much bear fur were concentrated in a 3-m radius around
the tree. The bear possibly was injured as there were drops of blood on the tree, but claw marks indicated
that she climbed to the safety of the crown. She eventually came down and returned to the den where she
died or was killed. Bear fur covered the snow within 2 or 3 m of the den. Tracks visible in the photographs
showed that the wolves dragged the carcass beyond the fur-covered area to consume it. By 21 March, all
that remained of the carcass was fur, fragments of bone, and the nearly intact skull. Wolf droppings in the
vicinity contained claws of the newborn cubs.
The death of this family was the only known predation loss to occur during 206 bear-years of radiotracking
bears 1 year of age or older (Rogers, in press). This interaction occurred after a decline in the
primary prey of the wolf in Minnesota, the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) (Mech and Karns,
1977). The wolf pack was trespassing in another pack's territory when it killed the bear.
Only 19 (1.3%) of 1,475 wolf droppings collected by Byman (1972) and Frenzel (1974) during
snowfree periods in northeastern Minnesota contained bear remains. Sixteen of the 19 droppings with bear
remains were collected from a single location near a residential area where bears were shot as nuisances
(Byman, 1972; D. Ross, pers. comm.). Similarly, in central Ontario, Voigt et al. (1976) found bear hair in
very few (number not given) of 1,943 wolf droppings they colected. Again, most of the droppings with bear remains were collected near residential areas, suggesting
scavenging of bears killed by people (G. Kolenosky, pers. comm.).
Although black bears occasionally were aggressive toward wolves, we found no evidence that bears
regarded wolves as prey. The "bear-killed wolf reported by Joslin (1966) was not eaten, and we found no
wolf remains in more than 1,200 bear droppings. Our observations indicate that single wolves tend to flee
from bears but wolf packs are capable of killing bears as large as adult females.

MightyKharza Wrote:66-5  Friday, Jan. 6 14:30 - 14:45  Identity of Ice Age Idaho wolves MEACHEN, JA*; BITTERMAN, KM; THOMPSON, ME; BRANNICK, AL; Des Moines University; Des Moines University; Idaho Museum of Natural History; University of Washington

Beringian wolves are an extinct group of Pleistocene-aged wolves from Alaska that specialized in hunting ice age megafauna. They were morphologically and genetically distinct from grey wolf (Canis lupus) and morphologically distinct from dire wolf (Canis dirus). The recent discovery of Beringian wolves at the late Pleistocene fossil site of Natural Trap Cave (NTC) in northern Wyoming marks the first record of this type of wolf in the contiguous U.S. Their migration followed an ice-free corridor from Alaska to Wyoming before the last glacial maximum, begging the question: Did Beringian wolves make it elsewhere in the contiguous U.S.? We collected 2D geometric morphometric data from photos of wolf mandibles from Alaska and WY-NTC (Beringian wolves), Rancho La Brea (RLB) in southern California (dire wolves), Idaho (purported dire wolves), and extant grey wolves from northwestern North America. We analyzed these images using 16 landmarks in tpsDig2. PCA and CVA analyses were run in PCAgen and CVAgen programs, and ANOVA was run on the PC scores to compare groups. Results show that the Idaho wolves are indistinguishable from NTC Beringian wolves and RLB dire wolves on PC1 and that they group with RLB dire wolves on PC2. In size, Idaho wolves group solidly with NTC Beringian wolves, and are significantly smaller than dire wolves. These findings suggest that the Idaho wolves are not the same species as is found at Rancho La Brea and that there was some hybridization between dire wolves and Beringian wolves in southern Idaho. Hybridization between modern canids is a common occurrence and our results would suggest that canid hybridization also occurred in the Pleistocene. The next step is to examine ancient DNA to assess whether the morphology concurs with the genetics of these ancient wolves.
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Why grey wolves kill less prey when brown bears are around

[Image: 01268722.jpg]
Food fight
Wild Wonders of Europe/Widstrand/

By Brian Owens

Wolves may be better at sharing their meals with bears than we thought.

Biologists have long assumed that when wolves and brown bears share territory, the wolves are forced to kill more often to make up for the food stolen by scavenging bears.

But when Aimee Tallian, a biologist at Utah State University, and her colleagues looked for evidence of this, they found the opposite. Where wolves live alongside bears in Scandinavia and Yellowstone National Park in the US, they actually kill less often.

“People had this general assumption, because you do see lynx and mountain lions abandon their kills once a bear takes it over, but no one had really looked at this in wolves before,” she says.

It’s not yet clear why this might be, but Tallian has a few theories.

Waiting for leftovers

One is that in winter, when wolves normally kill large animals like moose, there is enough meat on the carcass that it is worthwhile for the pack to spend a few extra days waiting around for leftovers after a scavenging bear is done with it, instead of going off to make another kill.

Another is that in spring and summer both wolves and bears prey on baby moose, and this competition over a finite resource might make it harder for both of them to find prey.

It’s probably some combination of the two, says Tallian, which will require further study to sort out. “We want to look at what component of that kill interval the bears are actually changing,” she says.

Heather Bryan, a biologist at the University of Victoria, Canada, says it may be impossible to generalise the results to other wolf and bear populations, because the dynamics of carnivore populations can change drastically depending on everything from food availability, the season and individual members of a pack. So there may be no specific lessons for conservationists protecting wild populations.

But the general principle of considering complex, multispecies interactions is vital. “The idea of thinking about the whole ecosystem and species interactions is important in conservation,” Bryan says.wol

Journal reference: 
Tallian A et al. 2017 Competition between apex predators? Brown bears decrease wolf kill rate on two continents. Proc. R. Soc. B 284: 20162368.

Trophic interactions are a fundamental topic in ecology, but we know little about how competition between apex predators affects predation, the mechanism driving top-down forcing in ecosystems. We used long-term datasets from Scandinavia (Europe) and Yellowstone National Park (North America) to evaluate how grey wolf (Canis lupus) kill rate was affected by a sympatric apex predator, the brown bear (Ursus arctos). We used kill interval (i.e. the number of days between consecutive ungulate kills) as a proxy of kill rate. Although brown bears can monopolize wolf kills, we found no support in either study system for the common assumption that they cause wolves to kill more often. On the contrary, our results showed the opposite effect. In Scandinavia, wolf packs sympatric with brown bears killed less often than allopatric packs during both spring (after bear den emergence) and summer. Similarly, the presence of bears at wolf-killed ungulates was associated with wolves killing less often during summer in Yellowstone. The consistency in results between the two systems suggests that brown bear presence actually reduces wolf kill rate. Our results suggest that the influence of predation on lower trophic levels may depend on the composition of predator communities.

Snow leopard and Himalayan wolf diets are about one-quarter livestock
Predation analysis has implications for conservation and management

Date: February 8, 2017
Source: PLOS

Around a quarter of Himalayan snow leopard and wolf diets are livestock, the rest being wild prey, according to a study published February 8, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Madhu Chetri from Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway, and colleagues.

Killing livestock creates conflicts between top predators and pastoral communities, and is a main challenge for conserving snow leopards, which are endangered, and Himalayan wolves, which are rare. These wolves prefer the open grasslands and alpine meadows that are also frequented by pastoral herders, and snow leopards prefer the steep terrain associated with montane pastures. To assess prey preferences of these carnivores, Chetri and colleagues analyzed DNA and hairs in 182 snow leopard scats and 57 wolf scats collected in the Central Himalayas, Nepal.

The researchers found that in keeping with the predators' habitats, snow leopards preferred cliff-dwelling wild prey such as bharal, while wolves preferred plain-dwelling wild prey such as Tibetan gazelles. In addition, livestock comprised 27% of the snow leopard diet and 24% of the wolf diet. Livestock occurred more than twice as frequently in scats from male snow leopards than in scats from females. Although livestock constitutes a substantial proportion of the predator's diets, little is known about the actual predation impact on the pastoral communities. Hence, the researchers' forthcoming work focuses on estimating livestock mortality rates and identifying factors associated with livestock loss.

Story Source: PLOS. "Snow leopard and Himalayan wolf diets are about one-quarter livestock: Predation analysis has implications for conservation and management." ScienceDaily. (accessed February 8, 2017).

Journal Reference:
Madhu Chetri, Morten Odden, Per Wegge. Snow Leopard and Himalayan Wolf: Food Habits and Prey Selection in the Central Himalayas, Nepal. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (2): e0170549 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170549

Top carnivores play an important role in maintaining energy flow and functioning of the ecosystem, and a clear understanding of their diets and foraging strategies is essential for developing effective conservation strategies. In this paper, we compared diets and prey selection of snow leopards and wolves based on analyses of genotyped scats (snow leopards n = 182, wolves n = 57), collected within 26 sampling grid cells (5×5 km) that were distributed across a vast landscape of ca 5000 km2 in the Central Himalayas, Nepal. Within the grid cells, we sampled prey abundances using the double observer method. We found that interspecific differences in diet composition and prey selection reflected their respective habitat preferences, i.e. snow leopards significantly preferred cliff-dwelling wild ungulates (mainly bharal, 57% of identified material in scat samples), whereas wolves preferred typically plain-dwellers (Tibetan gazelle, kiang and argali, 31%). Livestock was consumed less frequently than their proportional availability by both predators (snow leopard = 27%; wolf = 24%), but significant avoidance was only detected among snow leopards. Among livestock species, snow leopards significantly preferred horses and goats, avoided yaks, and used sheep as available. We identified factors influencing diet composition using Generalized Linear Mixed Models. Wolves showed seasonal differences in the occurrence of small mammals/birds, probably due to the winter hibernation of an important prey, marmots. For snow leopard, occurrence of both wild ungulates and livestock in scats depended on sex and latitude. Wild ungulates occurrence increased while livestock decreased from south to north, probably due to a latitudinal gradient in prey availability. Livestock occurred more frequently in scats from male snow leopards (males: 47%, females: 21%), and wild ungulates more frequently in scats from females (males: 48%, females: 70%). The sexual difference ag
Attached to this post:
[Image: attach.png] Competition_between_apex_predators__Brown_bears_decrease_wolf_kill_rate_on_two_continents.pdf (444.72 KB)[Image: attach.png] Snow_Leopard_and_Himalayan_Wolf__Food_Habits_and_Prey_Selection_in_the_Central_Himalayas__Nepal.pdf (1.7 MB)
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Wolf behavior undeterred by tailings ponds and pit mines
Study shows wolves hunt moose as usual in the Athabasca Oil Sands

Date: August 30, 2017
Source: University of Alberta
New research shows that predation rates of moose have increased near areas of high human disturbance, but low human activity, such as tailings ponds and pit mines.

[Image: 170830103440_1_900x600.jpg]
Two wolves peer into a wildlife camera in Alberta's Athabasca Oil Sands region.
Credit: Wildlife Habitat Effectiveness and Connectivity, 2014

Wolves do not avoid areas of human disturbance when hunting moose in Alberta's oil sands region.

New UAlberta research shows that predation rates of moose have increased near areas of high human disturbance, but low human activity, such as tailings ponds and pit mines.

"Wolves are not avoiding these features," explained UAlberta PhD candidate Eric Neilson, who compared the population density of moose to the distribution of wolf-related moose deaths in the region. "In fact, they are using space near mines as they usually would, demonstrating that these spaces are not a deterrent."

If anything, Neilson says these spaces provide effective hunting ground for wolves.

Environmental changes

When habitat is cleared for mining or oil extraction, there are large changes to the landscape that create barriers around which wolves move. A similar effect, Neilson said, is shown around rivers.

"Wolves are coursing predators. This means that they like to move across the landscape to encounter their prey. It could be that the edge of the mine provides a feature similar to rivers that they can move along and around in the same way," he said.

However, the intensification of wolf activity and moose kills near the edges of these mines and tailings ponds is not shown near camps or upgrader sites, likely due to the presence of humans.

Future investigation

"There is a lot more research to be done in this area," said Neilson, adding the impact upon moose populations is not yet clear. "With any change in habitat that causes changes in animal behaviour, there are many factors to consider and much more we can learn about what is really going on here."

Story Source: University of Alberta. "Wolf behavior undeterred by tailings ponds and pit mines: Study shows wolves hunt moose as usual in the Athabasca Oil Sands." ScienceDaily. (accessed August 31, 2017).

Journal Reference:
Eric W. Neilson, Stan Boutin. Human disturbance alters the predation rate of moose in the Athabasca oil sands. Ecosphere, 2017; 8 (8): e01913 DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1913

Human disturbance can alter predation rates to prey in various ways. Predators can use human disturbance to facilitate hunting, thereby increasing exposure to prey. Conversely, when predators avoid human disturbance and prey do not, prey refugia are generated. Because the direction and magnitude of such effects are not always predictable, it is important to examine if and how predation rates vary with human disturbance. Alberta's Athabasca oil sands region (AOSR) is a region of boreal forest characterized by extensive human disturbance and is home to moose (Alces alces) and wolf (Canis lupus) populations. We examined whether the wolf predation rate of moose varies with human disturbance in the AOSR. We compared the distribution of wolf kills of moose to a spatial index of moose density in uplands and wetlands, near and far from rivers, mines and facilities, and at high and low densities of linear features near human habitation. Moose were killed closer to mines and rivers and at lower densities of linear features than expected by random. When compared to the relative availability of habitats, more kills of moose occurred in upland forest than in wetlands. However, when compared to the relative density of moose, kills only increased with decreasing distance to mines and rivers. We conclude that predation rates of moose have increased near human disturbance in AOSR because the mining footprint has removed habitat causing changes to the intensity of wolf use of areas near the boundary of mines. We discuss possibility of sink habitat near mining features and whether that is expected to reduce moose population density across AOSR.;jsessionid=638BDA0A35D7A51A5951626DC1CE89D2.f04t02
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
ack of Female Wolves attack Enemy Intruder in Brutal Fight (Video)

By Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor | January 10, 2018 06:51am ET
0 0 MORE

[Image: aHR0cDovL3d3dy5saXZlc2NpZW5jZS5jb20vaW1h...NrLmpwZw==]
A pack of female wolves defends its den from an intruder in a new PBS documentary.
Credit: Nature: Arctic Wolf Pack/WNET

Moms are fierce — especially when they're wolves.

In a dramatic new video from an upcoming PBS documentary on Arctic wolves, a pack of female wolves defends its den from a bedraggled, strange wolf who attempts to make a meal of the pack's defenseless cubs.

Well, defenseless except for their mother and her three female packmates.

In a snarling, brutal sequence, the pack drags, bites and pulls the invader away from the pups. Within moments, the pups are safe from danger, and the stranger is on the run. 


The footage is part of a new episode in the series "Nature." The episode, "Arctic Wolf Pack," airs on PBS on Jan. 17. The documentary follows a pack of Arctic wolves (Canis lupus arctos) living only 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the North Pole. The snowy-furred canines birth their fuzzy, blind pups in dens burrowed into the Arctic tundra. Their mother, dubbed Snow White, isn't alone in caring for them. Her packmate, Black Spot, nurses Snow White's pups — a mysterious behavior never before captured on film. To make milk, Black Spot must have recently given birth herself, but the fate of her mate and her own litter is a mystery.

Arctic wolves are found in Greenland and the far northern reaches of Canada. It's the only subspecies of gray wolf that is not threatened by hunting or loss of habitat, according to the World Wide Fund (WWF) — an advantage it gains by living so far north that it rarely encounters humans.

Beyond its white fur, the Arctic wolf's short muzzle and small ears distinguish this subspecies from its more southerly gray cousins. These adaptations make it easier for the wolves to retain body heat, according to the WWF. The wolves live off of Arctic hares, caribou and musk ox, the latter of which grow to at least 10 times the wolves' weight. With such large prey, survival is a matter of cooperation between packmates — whether that means banding together to hunt or to protect the next generation. 
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Wolf found in northern Belgium, first time in over 100 years

January 13, 2018

[Image: overhuntingi.jpg]
Overhunting, industrialisation and urban sprawl progressively led to the disappearance of the wolf from most of Western Europe since the beginning of the 20th century

A wild wolf has been found in the northern Belgian region of Flanders for the first time in more than a century, an environmental group said Saturday.
"Our country was the only one in continental Europe to have not been visited by a wolf," since the animal began recolonising the continent, Landschap said.

Overhunting, industrialisation and urban sprawl progressively led to the disappearance of the wolf from most of Western Europe since the beginning of the 20th century.

Since the Bern Convention of 1979, the wolf has gone from public enemy to a protected species as "a fundamental element of our natural European heritage".

In some countries, like Romania and Poland where there have always been wolves, people adapt to treat an attack on sheep "like an accident, like a flock that falls into a ravine", says Farid Benhammou, a specialist on predators.

But in the new zones of wolf colonisation—in France and in some regions of Italy and Spain—there are major tensions, with farmers particularly unhappy at their re-emergence.

The wolf detected in Flanders in early January had an electronic tracker collar around its neck which allowed it to be identified as coming from neighbouring Germany.

The same animal had been spotted around Christmas in the Netherlands, according to Landschap.

"In recent days the wolf has stayed near the Flemish town of Beringen and the military base at Leopoldsburg. The animal has covered 500 kilometres (300 miles) in ten days," the group said.

In 2011 hidden cameras picked up images at night of what was very likely a wolf in the Ardennes region of southern Belgium.

But without any DNA traces, or any further appearances, the sighting could not be confirmed.

Groups in support of biodiversity welcomed the latest news of a wolf detected in Belgium, calling on the government to adopt a strategy to encourage the return of the species to the country on a more permanent basis, including compensation to farmers whose livestock are attacked.

Read more at: 
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New genetic research shows extent of cross-breeding between wild wolves and domestic dogs

Date: March 21, 2018
Source: University of Lincoln
An international study has shown that mating between domesticated dogs and wild wolves over hundreds of years has left a genetic mark on the wolf gene pool.

[Image: 180321094745_1_540x360.jpg]
Credit: © Angela Rohde / Fotolia

Mating between domesticated dogs and wild wolves over hundreds of years has left a genetic mark on the wolf gene pool, new research has shown.

The international study showed that around 60 per cent of Eurasian grey wolf genomes carried small blocks of the DNA of domestic dogs, suggesting that wolves cross-bred with dogs in past generations.

The results suggest that wolf-dog hybridisation has been geographically widespread in Europe and Asia and has been occurring for centuries. The phenomenon is seen less frequently in wild wolf populations of North America.

Researchers examined DNA data from grey wolves -- the ancestors of the domestic dog -- to determine how much their gene pool was diluted with the DNA of domestic canines, and how widespread the process of hybridisation is.

Despite the evidence of hybridisation among Eurasian grey wolves, the wolf populations have remained genetically distinct from dogs, suggesting that such cross-breeding does not diminish distinctiveness of the wolf gene pool if it occurs at low levels.

The results could have important conservation implications for the grey wolf, which is a keystone species -- meaning it is vital to the natural balance of the habitat it occupies. The legal status of hybrids is still uncertain and unregulated.

The study was led by researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr Malgorzata Pilot, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, said: "The fact that wild wolves can cross-breed with dogs is well-documented, but little was previously known about how widespread this phenomenon has been and how it has affected the genetic composition of wild wolf populations.

"We found that while hybridisation has not compromised the genetic distinctiveness of wolf populations, a large number of wild wolves in Eurasia carry a small proportion of gene variants derived from dogs, leading to the ambiguity of how we define genetically 'pure wolves'.

"Our research highlighted that some individual wolves which had been identified as 'pure wolves' according to their physical characteristics were actually shown to be of mixed ancestry. On the other hand, two Italian wolves with an unusual, black coat colour did not show any genetic signatures of hybridisation, except for carrying a dog-derived variant of a gene linked to dark colouration. This suggests that the definition of genetically 'pure' wolves can be ambiguous and identifying admixed individuals can be difficult, implying that management strategies based on removal of suspected hybrids from wolf populations may be inefficient.

"Instead, our study has highlighted a need to reduce the factors which can cause hybridisation, such as abundance of free-ranging dogs, small wolf population sizes, and unregulated hunting."

Studying a specific type of genetic variation in the DNA sequences of wolves and domestic dogs -- called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) -- the scientists identified the transfer of dog gene variants into wolf genomes.

A single DNA sequence is formed from a chain of four nucleotide bases and if some individuals in a population do not carry the same nucleotide at a specific position in the sequence, the variation is classified as an SNP.

Story Source: University of Lincoln. "New genetic research shows extent of cross-breeding between wild wolves and domestic dogs." ScienceDaily. (accessed March 21, 2018).

Journal Reference:
Adrián Castro-Insua, Carola Gómez-Rodríguez, Jens-Christian Svenning, Andrés Baselga. A new macroecological pattern: The latitudinal gradient in species range shape.Global Ecology and Biogeography, 2018; 27 (3): 357 DOI: 10.1111/geb.12702 
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Grey Wolves killing Bears

Taipan Wrote:Here are some accounts of Bears killed by Wolf Packs - a female Brown, a female Black and a Polar Bear Cub. I'd say it is rare based on that, and the pack size would be significantly larger than 5. 

Taipan Wrote:Wolf (Canis lupus) predation of a polar bear (Ursus maritimus) cub on the sea ice off northwestern Banks Island, Northwest Territories, Canada   /   Richardson, E.S.   Andriashek, D. 
Arctic, v. 59, no. 3, Sept. 2006, p. 322-324
ASTIS record 59688 

"We describe the apparent predation of a polar bear (Ursus maritimus) cub by wolves (Canis lupus) on the sea ice just off the northwest coast of Banks Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. On 20 April 2004, while following the tracks of a female bear and two cubs-of-the-year in the snow during a helicopter survey, we noted that the bear tracks had been joined by several sets of wolf tracks. After following both sets of tracks for about 1 km, we observed a disturbed area in the snow with numerous overlying tracks. Upon landing and searching the site, we found the remains of a polar bear cub that the wolves had successfully separated from its mother and killed. This is only the second documented observation ever made of a polar bear killed by wolves."


"October 12, 2004 

Canadian Park Needs Grizzly Conservation Plan 
Bear Deaths Threaten Grizzly Population; Challenge Banff Park Managers

Canmore, Alberta CANADA – Conservationists today repeated their calls to Parks Canada to develop and implement a conservation plan for the grizzly bears of Banff National Park. “Grizzly bears are more at risk in parts of our national parks than they are in the general landscape," charged Jim Pissot, executive director of Defenders of Wildlife Canada. “In spite of positive management steps, Banff's bears continue to die at an alarming rate." 

Last month, park staff found the bodies of two mature female bears in the park backcountry. Bear 46 was found early in September, apparently killed by another grizzly. Bear 30 was killed by wolves later in the month. In June, bear 36, known as Blondie, was killed by a vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway. These deaths have cut the number of breeding female grizzlies in the Lake Louise area in half. Six cubs were left prematurely on their own as a result of these deaths. "

Full article - Bear Deaths Threaten Grizzly Population; Challenge Banff Park Managers

Given they considered the Sow a viable mature breeding female, she must have been in reasonable to good condition as well.


Taipan Wrote:Quoting limited to 3 levels deep[Image: WolvesKillingSingleBlackBear001.jpg]

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[Image: WolvesBlackBearPart3001.jpg]

Here is another account of Wolves killing a Polar Bear (Cub!):

[big][big]Wolves take down polar bear near Hudson Bay[/big][/big]
Evidence suggests part of pack distracts mother bear while others drag cub away

Martin Zeilig · for CBC News · Posted: Dec 15, 2015 12:12 PM CT | Last Updated: December 16, 2015

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A Manitoba Conservation official has seen evidence of wolves successfully hunting a polar bear cub near Hudson Bay. ([small][small]Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)[/small][/small]

A Manitoba Conservation official has found evidence that wolves near Hudson Bay have learned to hunt polar bear cubs.

Polar bears are generally considered the top of the Arctic food chain, but a pack of wolves apparently distracted a mother bear long enough to take her cub in the Kaskatamagan Wildlife Management Area in northeastern Manitoba, said Daryll Hedman, the wildlife manager for the province's northeast region.

"This is the first strong indirect evidence I've ever seen of wolves preying on a polar bear cub. They probably killed the cub and dragged it away. There were, perhaps, three or four [separate] wolf tracks," Hedman said in a telephone interview.

"This doesn't happen often. It still seems to be a very rare event."

Hedman, who has been conducting polar bear maternity den emergence surveys in the region by helicopter for four years, has heard of such encounters before, but he saw evidence of such an attack for the first time in March.

"We've had reports of wolves predating on polar bears [the cubs] in the past by lodges and First Nations, mostly when the polar bears are coming off the ice onto land at the end of July," said Hedman, who is based in Thompson, Man.

"In our most recent report, a First Nations trapper reported to me what looked like a polar bear-wolf encounter" in the wildlife management area east of York Factory on the Hayes River, which runs along the Hudson Bay shoreline to the Ontario border.

"He said a single adult polar bear track was leaving the den site. About five days later, we were doing our survey by helicopter. We landed [at that site] and there was definitely evidence of polar bear and wolf tracks."

[Image: churchill-mb-polar-bear-nov-2015-in-the-...mwidth=460]
Members of a wolf pack get a mother's attention, then the rest of the pack grabs her cub, Daryll Hedman says. [small][small](Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)[/small][/small]

A single polar bear track led away from the site where the encounter was reported to have taken place, Hedman said.

"There was also a single cub track leading up to the wolf encounter, and after that, only the single track of a female polar bear going out to the ice of western Hudson Bay," he said.

The polar bear cub was probably four or five months old, Hedman said.

"I've had reports from people who have actually seen this sort of thing before," he said.

"What will happen is the female polar bear can't react quickly enough when the wolves are in a pack. Some of the wolves are getting her attention and the others go for the cub."

Other scientists and researchers have also seen evidence of wolves hunting polar bear cubs.

"In 1983, the late Malcolm Ramsay and I found evidence of a pack of wolves in the Churchill denning area that had learned to kill polar bear cubs when they were on their way to the sea ice from their maternity dens," polar bear specialist Ian Stirling wrote in his book Polar Bears: The Natural History of a Threatened Species.

"Tracks in the snow revealed that some wolves would worry and distract the mother while another seized a cub and apparently escaped with it. The cubs were completely devoured. In more recent years, wolf numbers appear to have increased since the area became a national park."

In most areas, the distributions of polar bears and wolves do not overlap very much, Stirling wrote.

"However, where they do, some wolves are learning to become successful predators of polar bear cubs, though it is probably not a common behaviour."

Hedman also emphasized that this is a rare occurrence.

"It happened right on the tidal flats of Hudson Bay," he said, noting the area contains a pretty healthy population of moose, the main prey species for wolves along the Hudson Bay coast in Kaskatamagan.

"Where the polar bears den, there are no wolves, but once they leave the dens and get closer to the coast, they might encounter wolves."
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Flesh Wrote:Dead cows are changing the way wolves eat

Hayley Sperling, WisContext | Published 10:10 p.m. CT May 22, 2018

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[small]Dumping cattle carcasses is illegal in Michigan and Wisconsin.
(Photo: Tyler Petroelje/Mississippi State University)[/small]

It's not an undertaking that most people must think about in everyday life, but dealing with cow carcasses is serious and oftentimes strenuous business. Properly disposing just one 2,000 pound dead cow isn't easy, and many dairy farmers and ranchers routinely dump livestock carcasses rather than burying or rendering them, despite laws requiring otherwise. However, research is suggesting this practice can have a meaningful effect on how predators, specifically wolves, interact with livestock, people and ecosystems as a whole.

A study led by Tyler Petroelje, a wildlife researcher and doctoral candidate at Mississippi State University, tracked the feeding behaviors of eight wolves from two packs in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This research was part of a broader predator-prey study that investigated a variety of factors that affect deer populations in the region. As reported by Great Lakes Echo, the study suggested that dumping cow carcasses alters wolf behavior.

In the North Woods of Wisconsin and Michigan, a wolf's natural diet typically consists of deer and beaver, Petroelje explained. But he found that nearly one-third of the diet of the wolves studied consisted of cattle carcasses from dump sites on nearby farms.

[small]A study of wolves in Michigan's Upper Peninsula found that the predators were attracted to the dumped carcasses of cattle. (Photo: Larry McGahey)[/small]

Ideally, a wolf's diet shouldn't contain any livestock. However, depredation rates did not rise in the area that was studied, located in the southern Upper Peninsula across the Menominee River from Wisconsin. In other words, while wolves were spending more time near these farms, they weren’t killing any livestock.

Petroelje found that wolves were feeding at carcass dump sites, which are illegal in Michigan, by using GPS tracking collars. By this means, he was able to follow the finescale movements of the collared wolves, ultimately tracking more than 80,000 locations. With this information, Petroelje found that wolves who ate at dump sites preyed less on their usual quarry. The predators also tended to be less active and not travel as far to hunt. Petroelje said this dynamic is similar to way bears eat from bird feeders in yards.

[Image: 636626270324341703-animals-wolves-behavi...dy-map.jpg]
[small]The cattle carcass dump sites examined in the study were located in the southern portion of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, across the Menominee River from northeastern Wisconsin. (Photo: Tyler Petroelje/Mississippi State University)[/small]

In Wisconsin, the issue of improper carcass disposal isn't widespread, explained Scott Walter, a large carnivore specialist at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, though that's not to say that it doesn't happen. Walter said the DNR works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services office to educate livestock owners in the northern Wisconsin region on the importance of proper carcass disposal; the federal agency also helps investigate when depredations occur. The DNR has also hosted workshops with livestock owners to educate them on the best legal means to get rid of carcasses.

According to Wisconsin law (95.50(3)), livestock carcasses may not be exposed to access by dogs or wild animal for more than 24 hours in April through November and no longer than 48 hours from December through March. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, which is responsible for regulating these practices, recommends rendering as the best way to dispose of livestock carcasses, as it poses the least threat compared to burying or burning remains, which can cause biosecurity hazards. But as Petroelje noted, and DATCP underscored, the process of rendering is difficult and expensive, which often dissuades farmers and ranchers from doing it.

[Image: 636626270323093711-animals-wolves-behavi...eyard1.jpg]
[small]Cattle carcasses that are dumped and left to decompose can attract predators, including wolves. Tyler Petroelje/Mississippi State University Cattle carcasses that are dumped and left to decompose can attract predators, including wolves. Tyler Petroelje/Mississippi State University Cattle carcasses that are dumped and left to decompose can attract predators, including wolves. (Photo: Tyler Petroelje/Mississippi State University)[/small]

Furthermore, Petroelje explained that many farmers are simply unaware of law.

One livestock owner Petroelje met while conducting the research said they noticed an increase of wolves on their land but didn't understand why. After speaking with Petroelje and realizing the pervasiveness of the issue, the farmer started burying his carcasses.

"I think a lot of it is just education," Petroelje said. "A lot of people are just unaware of what the law is and what the proper response is. It can be as simple as just burying the food source. Just like the same thing with bears, you take away the bird feeders and they're going to stop coming by your house. A similar rule applies with wolves, if you take away the food source, they don’t really have a reason to be around anymore."

Conversely, farmers and ranchers elsewhere use dump sites to lure predators away from their livestock. As Montana Public Radio reported in June 2017, ranchers in that state's Big Hole Valley worked cooperatively with each other and alongside local, state and federal agencies to create one designated location for anyone to drop off carcasses in hopes of keeping wolves and bears off their property.

According to DATCP, there are no approved dump sites in Wisconsin, like those in Montana, since the practice is illegal in the Dairy State.

Though Petroelje only looked at nine illegal dump sites in the Upper Peninsula in use at the time of the study, he said other literature suggests that they exist across the Great Lakes region.

The practice of creating dumping sites for livestock carcasses is not new. But Petroelje noted that as the wolf population continues to grow in northern Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, so do the risks for human and wolf interaction. This doesn't mean that wolves are more dangerous; rather, the likelihood of interaction becomes greater.

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[small]One livestock owner who dumped dead cattle noticed more wolves on their land. (Photo: Tyler Petroelje/Mississippi State University)[/small]

"This practice seems to be quite pervasive, and talking with some farmers, it's obviously been going on for quite some time,” he said. "It probably didn’t cause a problem 30 years ago, but now that wolves have returned, it's something that we can take this observation and say 'We do need to be aware of this, and we do need to make sure we can inform a lot of these livestock owners that they can reduce risks of wolf-human interaction by burying these carcasses and following the law.'"
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Genetics research verifies purity of the Mexican wolf

June 21, 2018 by Stacy Pigott, University of Arizona

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The Mexican wolf has been listed as an endangered species since 1976. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In October 2015, two small minnows in the Lower Colorado River Basin—the headwater chub and the roundtail chub—were proposed for listing as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. In April 2017, that proposal was withdrawn after new science identified the two small fish as members of the same species.

As technologies advance, genetic research is playing an increasingly important role in informing decisions about the conservation of threatened and endangered species. In addition to the roundtail chub, another recent example is the Mexican wolf.

The Mexican wolf is one of 43 animals listed as endangered in Arizona, where a captive breeding program for Canis lupus baileyi has been underway since the late 1970s, when the population dipped as low as seven wolves in the wild. The selective breeding of a small population brings with it specific genetic concerns: Are the genetics pure, or had the Mexican wolf, on its path to near-extinction, cross-bred with domestic dogs?

"It's a question that's been brought up since before the captive breeding population started," said Bob Fitak, a University of Arizona alumnus who wrote his dissertation on the Mexican wolf while working in Melanie Culver's conservation genetics laboratory at the UA. "Are we dealing with something that is actually a Mexican wolf, or is it something a bit different?"

Advances in genomic technology made it possible for researchers to find out. Earlier studies that examined the genetic purity of the Mexican wolf were hindered by small numbers—fewer than 10 Mexican wolves had been analyzed, none of which came from the original three captive lineages. Fitak and his colleagues genotyped 87 Mexican wolves representing a broad spectrum of pedigrees, including all three original captive lineages, a mixture of those lineages and wolves born in the wild.

Fitak's dissertation and subsequent research led to the recent publication of "Genome-Wide Analysis of SNPs Is Consistent With No Domestic Dog Ancestry in the Endangered Mexican Wolf" in the Journal of Heredity. Fitak, who now works for Duke University in the Department of Biology, was lead author on the paper that included Sarah Rinkevich, a UA alumna and endangered-species biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Culver, a U.S. Geological Survey geneticist at the Arizona Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and an associate in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

The study was the first to analyze the Mexican wolf utilizing genome enabling, which allows researchers to use genomic data from one species, such as domestic dogs, to study a similar species, such as Mexican wolves.

[Image: 3-geneticsrese.jpg]
A captive breeding program has brought the Mexican wolf from the brink of extinction to current population estimates of no fewer than 114 Mexican wolves living in the wild. The breeding of such a small population brings with it genetic concerns such as the purity of the genome and outside hybridization. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

"I started in Melanie's lab about the time there was this growth in genomic technologies, so I was interested in those new concepts and new ways of applying things," Fitak said. "Wolves are pretty unique because we had a really interesting Mexican wolf population, and we had some new tools from dogs that we could use to study them in a way that hadn't been done before."

Fitak's analysis benefited from advances in genomic technologies such as SNP chips, which analyze single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. Each SNP represents a difference in a single DNA building block, making it useful as a biological marker.

Prior studies were able to analyze only about two dozen biological markers. SNP chips allowed Fitak to examine more than 172,000 SNPs across the whole genome.

[Image: 4-geneticsrese.jpg]
A principle component analysis, which is often used to show genetic distance and relatedness between populations, indicates distinct clusters of domestic dog, North American gray wolf, European gray wolf and Mexican wolf genetic data. Credit: Bob Fitak

The first section of Fitak's study looked at average ancestry across the genome, also known as global ancestry. The analysis showed that across the entire genome, Mexican wolves share an average of only .06 percent ancestry with domestic dogs, indicating a lack of biologically significant ancestry from domestic dogs. The Mexican wolf, which became isolated in North America prior to the domestication of dogs in Europe, shares a small amount of ancestry with the European gray wolf, while 98.9 percent of the Mexican wolf genome is specific to the subspecies.

The second section looked at local ancestry, which is ancestry at a specific chromosomal location. When individual chromosomes were analyzed, an average of 7.8 percent of the Mexican wolf genome contained fragments that could have resulted from domestic dogs.

"There are some signals of domestic dog in the Mexican wolf genome," Culver said of the 7.8 percent. "Are they just artifacts? Could that similarity be by chance because they're closely related, or could there have been some event where a domestic dog did hybridize with wolves, and if so, when was it? Was it recently or was it a long time ago, like thousands of years ago?"

To answer the questions, Fitak and his colleagues simulated what the Mexican wolf genome would look like if no hybridization took place, or if hybridization with domestic dogs occurred two generations ago, 20 generations ago or 200 generations ago. The observed Mexican wolf data matched the predictive model of no hybridization between Mexican wolves and domestic dogs.

"This study, showing no hybridization with domestic dogs found within this population, was important because it again confirms the genetic purity of the Mexican wolf," said Rinkevich, who is often involved in the listing and delisting of endangered and threatened species in her role as an endangered-species biologist. "That genetic information is important to conservation efforts."

The study by Fitak, Rinkevich and Culver netted genetic data from the largest population of Mexican wolves that is now publicly available for all geneticists to use in future research. For Fitak, that might mean delving deeper into the amount of inbreeding in the Mexican wolf as the captive breeding program continues. Until then, an important question about one endangered species, the Mexican wolf, finally has been answered.

Journal Reference:
Robert R Fitak et al. Genome-Wide Analysis of SNPs Is Consistent with No Domestic Dog Ancestry in the Endangered Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), Journal of Heredity (2018). DOI: 10.1093/jhered/esy009 

The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) was historically distributed throughout the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Extensive predator removal campaigns during the early 20th century, however, resulted in its eventual extirpation by the mid 1980s. At this time, the Mexican wolf existed only in 3 separate captive lineages (McBride, Ghost Ranch, and Aragón) descended from 3, 2, and 2 founders, respectively. These lineages were merged in 1995 to increase the available genetic variation, and Mexican wolves were reintroduced into Arizona and New Mexico in 1998. Despite the ongoing management of the Mexican wolf population, it has been suggested that a proportion of the Mexican wolf ancestry may be recently derived from hybridization with domestic dogs. In this study, we genotyped 87 Mexican wolves, including individuals from all 3 captive lineages and cross-lineage wolves, for more than 172000 single nucleotide polymorphisms. We identified levels of genetic variation consistent with the pedigree record and effects of genetic rescue. To identify the potential to detect hybridization with domestic dogs, we compared our Mexican wolf genotypes with those from studies of domestic dogs and other gray wolves. The proportion of Mexican wolf ancestry assigned to domestic dogs was only between 0.06% (SD 0.23%) and 7.8% (SD 1.0%) for global and local ancestry estimates, respectively; and was consistent with simulated levels of incomplete lineage sorting. Overall, our results suggested that Mexican wolves lack biologically significant ancestry with dogs and have useful implications for the conservation and management of this endangered wolf subspecies. 
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
NPS to reestablish wolves on Isle Royale

September 28, 2018 by Bob Yirka, report

[Image: graywolf.jpg]
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Officials with the National Park Service in the U.S. have announced that NPS has plans to reestablish wolves on Isle Royale—an island in Lake Superior. They also told reporters that some wolves have already been captured and brought to the island and have been released into the wild.
Isle Royale National Park is a group of islands in a northwestern part of Lake Superior—the island of Isle Royale is the largest by far. The entire island is a park, and because of that, it is mostly uninhabited by humans. Neither moose nor wolves are native to the island, but both made their way over from what is now Minnesota sometime around 1900 by walking over frozen portions of the lake. The arrival of the moose and wolf on the island caught the attention of researchers who began a study of the dynamic between the two back in 1958—it has continued to this day, making the study the longest of its kind ever conducted. But the study has come nearly to a halt as the wolf population has dwindled to just two—one male and one female. Both are old, and the pair are not expected to reproduce. The population dwindled because of the lack of genetic diversity, which led to diseases that wiped them out. Meanwhile, the moose population has surged, causing overgrazing of parts of the island. After assessing the situation, NPS has decided that reintroducing wolves makes the most sense.

Two wolves (one male and one female) have already been captured and released on the island. Both were caught on Grand Portage Reservation in northeastern Minnesota—a site close to where the original wolf wolves are believed to have migrated from. NPS plans to capture more from the same reservation and also some from Michigan. All told, NPS plans to relocate 20 to 30 wolves to the island over the course of the next few years. NPS officials noted that none of the wolves being relocated have experience in hunting and killing moose, but expect they will figure it out. They also noted that NPS will be part of the ongoing study of the predator-prey relationship for at least the next 20 years.

Journal Reference:
Christine Mlot  Classic wolf-moose study to be restarted on Isle Royale, Science  28 Sep 2018: Vol. 361, Issue 6409, pp. 1298-1299, DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6409.1298 ,

More than 60 years ago, a couple of wolves wandered across a frozen channel on Lake Superior and settled on moose-rich Isle Royale in Michigan, touching off a dance of predators and prey and a classic study in ecology. But inbreeding as well as warmer winters, which mean less lake ice and fewer opportunities for mainland wolves to restock the population, have essentially ended the classic natural experiment, leaving only two surviving wolves on the island. Now, a new experiment is starting. If the wind and waves on Lake Superior cooperate, by the end of this month the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) will airlift the first of six wolves from the U.S. mainland to Isle Royale by floatplane in an effort to re-establish predators. With the reboot, NPS hopes to attract researchers with new questions to explore.
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Snowed in: Wolves stay put when it's snowing, study shows

December 19, 2018 by Katie Willis, University of Alberta

[Image: snowedinwolv.jpg]
Wolf tracks across snow in northeastern Alberta. The study found that wolves travel shorter distances and move slower during snowfall. Credit: Amanda Droghini

Wolves travel shorter distances and move slower during snowfall events, according to new research by University of Alberta biologists. The effects were most pronounced at night, when wolves hunt, and behaviour returned to normal within a day. Wolf tracks across snow in northeastern Alberta.

"Our findings suggest that there is something about actively falling snow that causes wolves to slow down," said Amanda Droghini, a former MSc student in the Department of Biological Science and lead author on the study. "We don't know the exact mechanism behind that. It's unlikely that they were staying still because they were feasting on a recent kill. Instead, active precipitation might affect wolves' hunting abilities. Like rain, snow clears the air column of scent molecules. So, maybe falling snow makes it harder for wolves to detect the smell of prey."

Over the course of two winters, the researchers used remote cameras to identify snowfall events and estimate snow depth. To study wolf movement, they collected telemetry data from 17 wolves to calculate travel speed and duration, as well as resting periods. It is the first study to examine how large carnivores respond to snowfall events.

With the effects of climate change on precipitation in the boreal forest region uncertain, it is difficult to predict the implications for wolf populations. Studies such as these increase our understanding of how large mammals react to normal snowfall events, but the type and amount of winter precipitation will likely have an impact on animal behavior and the energetic cost of movement. .

"Winter is already challenging for many wildlife species because moving through snow requires more energy. Snow can also make it harder for animals to access food resources," said Droghini, who conducted the research under the supervision of Professor Stan Boutin, Alberta Biodiversity Conservation Chair.

"Anything that increases those costs, such as increased rain-on-snow events, could lead to nutritional deficiencies, poor body condition, and even starvation as animals are unable to make up for those additional costs. That is one of the worst-case scenarios but, in truth, we know very little about potential changes to precipitation patterns and how wildlife will respond to those changes."

The paper, "The calm during the storm: Snowfall events decrease the movement rates of grey wolves (Canis lupus)," was published in PLOS One.

Journal Reference:
Amanda Droghini et al, The calm during the storm: Snowfall events decrease the movement rates of grey wolves (Canis lupus), PLOS ONE (2018). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0205742

Mammalian predators encounter unique hunting challenges during the winter as snow increases the cost of locomotion and influences predator-prey interactions. Winter precipitation may also affect predators’ ability to detect and pursue prey. We investigated the effects of snowfall events on grey wolves (Canis lupus) in a boreal forest ecosystem in northeastern Alberta, Canada. We predicted that wolves would respond to snowfall events by reducing their travel speed and the time they spent travelling. Over the course of two winters, we used remote cameras to identify localized snowfall events and estimate snow depth. We used telemetry data from 17 wolves to calculate travel speed and time spent travelling versus resting. Data were categorized by time of day (night versus day) and time since snowfall events, and analyzed using linear and logistic regression mixed-effects models. We found that wolves were less likely to travel on dates of snowfall events than any date prior to or after an event. Wolves also travelled slower during snowfall events, but only when compared to their travel speed 24 hours before. Effects were most pronounced at night, when movements appeared to be consistent with hunting behavior, and activity levels resumed within 24 hours of a snowfall event. Including snow depth as a variable did not improve model fit. Collectively, our findings suggest that wolves’ response is not driven by increased hunting success or by energetic considerations resulting from increased snow depth. Instead, we propose that wolves reduce their activity levels because precipitation dampens hunting success. Snowfall events may impact wolves’ ability to detect prey and changes in prey behavior could also lead to decreased encounter rates. We encourage scientists to further investigate the effects of short-term weather events on movement rates and predator-prey interactions.
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  • Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
Origin of Scandinavian wolves clarified

by Uppsala University

There are no signs that hybrids of dog and wolf have contributed to the Scandinavian wolf population – a matter that has been discussed, especially in Norway. These wolves appear to have originated from the Nordic region or adjacent parts of Northern Europe, new genetic research from Uppsala University shows.
In every mammal, the male-specific Y chromosome is passed on from father to son only. Patrilines (lines of descent) are thus formed. These can be followed very far back in time, enabling the origin of animals living today to be traced.
Linnéa Smeds, bioinformatician and Ph.D. student at the Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, surveyed the composition of the wolf's Y chromosome. Subsequently, she compared Y chromosomes in wolves from Scandinavia, Finland and other parts of the world, and in dogs.
"The lines of descent found in the Scandinavian wolf population haven't been found in any dogs," says Hans Ellegren, Professor of Evolutionary Biology, who headed the present study.
Wolf-dog hybrids – crosses between wolf and dog – are known from many parts of the world. This has mainly been the result of male dogs mating with female wolves. One such hybrid was found south-west of Stockholm, in 2017; another turned up near Oslo 20 years ago. In the Storting, the Norwegian parliament, the question has been raised of whether the wolves returning to Scandinavia in the 1980s, after they had been virtually exterminated, even had some elements from dogs in their genetic ancestry.
However, the new genetic findings thus show that crosses of this kind do not appear to be involved in the wild wolf population in Scandinavia. The same patrilines that were found in Scandinavian wolves also existed in Finnish ones, but not in wolves elsewhere in the world.
"So it's plausible that the Scandinavian wolf population, at least in the male line of descent, is of regional origin. There may, for instance, have been migrating wolves or wolves quite simply remaining from the population that once ranged throughout Scandinavia," Ellegren says.
Today, immigration of wolves is regarded as genetically valuable, to counteract the inbreeding that occurs in the Scandinavian wolf population.

Journal Reference:
Linnéa Smeds et al. The evolutionary history of grey wolf Y chromosomes, Molecular Ecology (2019). DOI: 10.1111/mec.15054
Journal information: Molecular Ecology

Analyses of Y chromosome haplotypes uniquely provide a paternal picture of evolutionary histories and offer a very useful contrast to studies based on maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA. Here we used a bioinformatic approach based on comparison of male and female sequence coverage to identify 4.7 Mb from the grey wolf Y chromosome, likely representing most of the male‐specific, non‐ampliconic sequence from the euchromatic part of the chromosome. We characterized this sequence and then identified ≈1,500 Y‐linked SNPs in a sample of 145 re‐sequenced male wolves, including 75 Finnish wolf genomes newly sequenced in this study, and in 24 dogs and eight other canids. We found 53 Y chromosome haplotypes, of which 26 were seen in grey wolves, that clustered in four major haplogroups. All four haplogroups were represented in samples of Finnish wolves, showing that haplogroup lineages were not partitioned on a continental scale. However, regional population structure was indicated because individual haplotypes were never shared between geographically distant areas, and genetically similar haplotypes were only found within the same geographical region. The deepest split between grey wolf haplogroups was estimated to have occurred 125,000 years ago, which is considerably older than recent estimates of the time of divergence of wolf populations. The distribution of dogs in a phylogenetic tree of Y chromosome haplotypes supports multiple domestication events, or wolf paternal introgression, starting 29,000 years ago. We also addressed the disputed origin of a recently founded population of Scandinavian wolves and observed that founding as well as most recent immigrant haplotypes were present in the neighbouring Finnish population, but not in sequenced wolves from elsewhere in the world, or in dogs.
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