Sticky "Red Wolf" restoration scandal

Jett

Eight Pointer
So more unprotected hybrid coyotes are found where the first ones were caught. Imagine that.

And Ronnie immediately proposes taking more private landowner rights!

Are you gonna tell this to the private landowners at Martell's Ronnie?

Sutherland said the Galveston canines have effectively quashed a decades-old impression that red wolves were a feckless predator overwhelmed by the numerical superiority of coyotes.
He adds that the Galveston group has DNA that can’t be found in the animal’s captive population.


“From a practical conservation biology standpoint, these animals have special DNA, and they deserve to be protected,” he said, explaining that conservation easements that restrict development along parts of the Gulf Coast are an essential first step.
https://abc11.com/5075689/
 
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odie408

Ten Pointer
Seems the woofs in Texas have fared better than the ones here with guberment assistance. Ron, you should consider moving these few mutts back where they came from. Coyote will fill the predator niche here.
 

DRS

Old Mossy Horns
Looking for an article I know I read. Something like: "How the red wolf saved, itself". Any help appreciated. I know I read it several years ago.
 

Take 'em

Six Pointer
Since the DNA analysis of the current red wolf prototypes show nothing unique to declare these are red wolves, but rather these are 24% gray wolves and 75% coyotes with a little common dog thrown in, how can these animals in Texas be found to have redwolf DNA. What is the source of the baseline DNA to distinguish a red wolf?
 

Part-time hunter

Ten Pointer
There was an article in the Wilmington Star News the other day saying they have found a bunch of red wolves in Texas, and that there were some in Louisiana. This was apparently surprising as they haven't been seen there for a very long time. It also noted that there was coyote dna found in these animals, which shouldn't be surprising. The only thing it said about NC red wolves was that the numbers have significantly dwindled since their reintroduction project's beginning. Also I think it said that the dna of the newly discovered ones was different in some way from the ones that were captive bred and released.
 

ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
So more unprotected hybrid coyotes are found where the first ones were caught. Imagine that.

And Ronnie immediately proposes taking more private landowner rights!

Are you gonna tell this to the private landowners at Martell's Ronnie?

Sutherland said the Galveston canines have effectively quashed a decades-old impression that red wolves were a feckless predator overwhelmed by the numerical superiority of coyotes.
He adds that the Galveston group has DNA that can’t be found in the animal’s captive population.


“From a practical conservation biology standpoint, these animals have special DNA, and they deserve to be protected,” he said, explaining that conservation easements that restrict development along parts of the Gulf Coast are an essential first step.
https://abc11.com/5075689/
Hi Jett, I agree that is an unfortunate turn of a phrase, but it doesn't quite reflect what I told the reporter, which is that it would be great for someone/some agency to spend money buying conservation easements to protect the Gulf Coast canids. And by "buying" I mean from willing sellers, of which there usually are a few if the money is right. A conservation easement, for those who don't know, is a legal agreement that restricts development of certain types (as described in the agreement, they vary quite a bit) but allows otherwise unfettered use and enjoyment by the landowner, including the right to sell or pass the property down to heirs. Conservation easements have been used with great success in North Carolina and other states to protect land for all kinds of wildlife, while maintaining private ownership and everything that goes with that. They can be permanent, or they can be term-limited (20-30 years, for example). I'm sure many on this forum are familiar with the concept.
 

ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
Looking for an article I know I read. Something like: "How the red wolf saved, itself". Any help appreciated. I know I read it several years ago.
I think you're talking about an op-ed written by John Wooding in the News and Observer in 2012. I just looked for it, and couldn't find the link either, the N&O search function doesn't seem to go very far back. His point was that if you assume today's coyotes are the same as red wolves, then we could just declare the red wolf has recovered itself. I disagree, because I don't think the unique DNA of the southeastern red wolf is captured well in the coyotes we have around NC.
 

ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
Since the DNA analysis of the current red wolf prototypes show nothing unique to declare these are red wolves, but rather these are 24% gray wolves and 75% coyotes with a little common dog thrown in, how can these animals in Texas be found to have redwolf DNA. What is the source of the baseline DNA to distinguish a red wolf?
Take 'em, the paper you refer to was by vonHoldt et al. out of Princeton, and as I've mentioned a few times on this forum, that particular statistic (75% coyote) was from a test that explicitly assumed that there only two canid species for the red wolf DNA to be assigned to, gray wolves and coyotes. Not sure where the "common dog" part you refer to arose, it wasn't from that test from that paper, and could be an embellishment that someone else added to the story.

vonHoldt's 2016 paper continued to be skeptical of the unique nature of red wolves, but they did find a certain percentage of the red wolves DNA was unique and not found in coyotes or gray wolves. They were subsequently critiqued for not being very specific about how much unique DNA would be needed to qualify the red wolf as a separate species.

The new paper about the Texas wolves is from the same Princeton genomics lab (vonHoldt) and they are the ones that came up with the estimate that the Gulf Coast canids they sampled were 40% red wolf, I think by comparing them with samples of red wolves, coyotes, and gray wolves.

For Mike Noles and others, there have been tests since the year 2000 or so that can distinguish red wolves from coyotes fairly reliably, and even estimate with some precision the level of hybridization that has occurred in the case of hybrids.
 

ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
You can read more about conservation easements here, in a description of Ducks Unlimited's easement program:
https://www.ducks.org/conservation/land-protection/ducks-unlimiteds-conservation-easement-program
or here, in a pdf talking about ways of donating easements to the Wild Turkey Federation:
http://nwtfsc.com/wp-content/uploads/Form-NWTF-Conservation-Easements-Information.pdf

On the other hand, if you want to read about actual private land grabs, how about this:
https://www.texastribune.org/2012/02/17/keystone-pipeline-sparks-property-rights-backlash/
or this:
https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a25857484/trump-wall-eminent-domain-texas-land-grabs-left-right/
 

Mike Noles aka conman

Administrator
Staff member
Contributor
For Mike Noles and others, there have been tests since the year 2000 or so that can distinguish red wolves from coyotes fairly reliably, and even estimate with some precision the level of hybridization that has occurred in the case of hybrids.
Ron, if there is a recognized DNA designation for the extinct species canis rufus, where is it listed? The DNA comparison that is most widely used is from the zoo invented hybrids out of PDZ, isn't it? I would think that IF there was a pure recognized red wolf designated DNA, all this hubbub and "scientific research" to prove or disprove their existence would be moot.
 
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ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
Ron, if there is a recognized DNA designation for the extinct species canis rufus, where is it listed? The DNA comparison that is most widely used is from the zoo invented hybrids out of PDZ, isn't it? I would think that IF there was a pure recognized red wolf designated DNA, all this hubbub and "scientific research" to prove or disprove their existence would be moot.
Mike, you could contact the Waits lab at the University of Idaho and ask for the sequences/primers they use to identify red wolves vs. coyotes, I can't rattle off the codes. Yes, they use the captive animals as a reference population (I'm pretty sure), no, Point Defiance Zoo did not create any significant level of new DNA in a few generations of captive breeding.

What would settle the genetic debate about red wolves would be a large series of wolf pelts or skeletons, well distributed across every southeastern state (because people want proof of the exact canid from their state), from the period of early European colonization. Less perfect, but still good, would be a few specimens from that time period, but I'm not aware of any (except one or two that haven't been sampled yet)? There are museum specimens from the lower Midwest around 1900, but by that point the wolves along the Atlantic coast had already been wiped out by extensive persecution, and, if you believe the coyote-gray wolf hybridization hypothesis, coyotes may have already started to invade by that point, possibly hybridizing and muddling any search for a unique southeastern wolf.

I'd love for it all to be sorted out to every critic's satisfaction, but the reality is we only have so much historical DNA to work with, not just for red wolves but for many other species as well.
 

Mike Noles aka conman

Administrator
Staff member
Contributor
I've never denied the belief that a red wolf did exist in the southeastern United States. I also have never believed that the origin of this "new" red wolf is of pure species that did exist. According to the PDZ studbook, the origin was of hybrid stock. Biologically, there's no way that a mixed breed mating can create a pure bred species. This bush has no more leaves to beat. Have a good one, Ron.
 

Jett

Eight Pointer
Ron,

At your Martell's get together with door prizes, make sure Kim Wheeler explains that it was her Red Wolf Coalition that sued to ban coyote hunting in that area.

Also make sure Kim tells how her Red Wolf Coalition recently sued to further remove landowner protections afforded them by the 10j rules of the ESA. Specifically, USFWS promised in Federal Rule, that landowners could have wolves removed from their property for ANY reason or even no reason at all. Kim and RWC sued to have this protection for landowners removed. How can any of us trust what USFWS says if RWC/SELC/DOW sues and turns USFWS into liars?

What will be next, will private land now be taken by USFWS in the name of critical habitat for fake red wolves?
Will farmers be banned from harvesting crops if a fake woof is denning in their field?
Will my farm become a mecca for USFWS to raise red wolves because I manage it for wildlife and USFWS floods their land for bogus carbon credits?

Ron, have you noticed, every time you "conservationists" sue to protect this nonnative invasive coywolf hybrid, their population further declines? Keep it up, soon there will be none....

Sincerely,
Jett Ferebee
 
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ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
Mike Noles, that is where we disagree. You seem to imply that if the red wolf has any evidence of hybridization in its genetic legacy, then it has no conservation value and shouldn't be protected. Modern molecular genetics is quickly revealing that many, many species, including humans, have a history of hybridization that shows up in their DNA. The Endangered Species Act, to my knowledge, doesn't take this into account very well. But neither does the ESA demand that every endangered species be "pure bred". Pure bred is a term from livestock breeding and doesn't translate well to protecting wild species, which are inherently quite variable. In fact, one could easily make the case that the red wolf as it exists now is far too pure - recent studies keep showing it has the lowest level of genetic diversity of wild canid populations they've studied, due to the immense bottleneck the red wolves experienced. Yes, there are examples of species like bison where greater conservation value is placed on un-hybridized individuals (bison mate with cows, which I suppose by the logic here on this forum means they are not a species?). But, if all we had left were bison with some small level of cow DNA, you better believe we'd still be trying to protect them.

On the related subject of trying to establish whether the red wolf of today (in NC and the zoos) is the exact same as the wolf that was in eastern NC in 1492, of course it isn't. But neither are the bald eagles, peregrine falcons, elk, white-tailed deer, large-mouth bass, blue gill, channel catfish, or wild turkey - all were at least partially restocked and moved around. Should we stop bald eagle conservation because they are all Alaskan super-eagles? Doesn't make sense, in the spirit of pragmatic wildlife restoration, and it doesn't make sense for red wolves either. Can you prove that the white-tailed deer in Hyde and Tyrrell County show no evidence of hybridization with deer from other states, and that they are the exact same deer as were here in the 1500's? Good luck.

Should red wolf conservation be taking place in more than one place, and not just on the Albemarle Peninsula - absolutely, including the Gulf Coast where the remaining wolves are from.
 

Mike Noles aka conman

Administrator
Staff member
Contributor
I understand genetic diversity and hybridization, Ron, as well as the terminology that's often confusing. My question, and just so I'm clear, is this; In order to be declared a distinct species, the DNA of that "species" has to be the repeatable at each mating, right? If so, why are there so many litters and individual pups killed in the captive breeding programs and in the wild and why do the progeny of the "founders" continue to show so little red wolf DNA and such a high incidence of coyote?

I could give a tinkers dink as to whether the program survives or not and it has nothing to do with the animal. My aversion has been and will always be how the federal government and NPOs have used this animal as a cash cow and how each have tried to trample landowner/property rights of those of us that actually worked and earned our properties.
 

Take 'em

Six Pointer
Ron, hint! It seems that in spite of USFWS declaration of the red wolf extinct in the wild and in spite of euthanizing close to 400 animals that were trapped and then declared not good enough to be "real red wolves", that a red wolf like species survived without government help. In fact the declared extinct survived in spite of USFWS intent to eliminate them from Texas, La.

Perhaps that is because USFWS trapped the wrong animals to begin with, but for certain it is another glaring example of USFWS having run amok even with good intentions. Now 40 years later and with millions of dollars invested, it is apparent the red wolves (whatever they actually are) would have been better served just left alone in their chosen habitat.
 

ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
Ron, hint! It seems that in spite of USFWS declaration of the red wolf extinct in the wild and in spite of euthanizing close to 400 animals that were trapped and then declared not good enough to be "real red wolves", that a red wolf like species survived without government help. In fact the declared extinct survived in spite of USFWS intent to eliminate them from Texas, La.

Perhaps that is because USFWS trapped the wrong animals to begin with, but for certain it is another glaring example of USFWS having run amok even with good intentions. Now 40 years later and with millions of dollars invested, it is apparent the red wolves (whatever they actually are) would have been better served just left alone in their chosen habitat.
Take 'em, even before the news about the red wolf DNA discovery along the Gulf Coast, I had often questioned the wisdom of USFWS culling so many of the initial 400 animals they captured 40 years ago. So we're on the same page there.

But, that's not the world we live in, and we don't have much of a final answer about the status of the Gulf Coast canids - maybe capturing the animals in the 70's was the only way to protect some of the wolves from dropping to 40-50% red wolf DNA. If there still are a number of 60-80%+ wolf canids down there, then maybe they did pretty much save themselves, which would be great news if true. Sadly, it does not logically follow that those same animals are secure for the next 40 years, given ongoing coastal development, sea level rise, and the availability of quite sophisticated night vision hunting equipment.

In retrospect, I think USFWS should have spent a couple of hundred million dollars back in the 1970's buying up land (or at least development rights, see easement discussion above) around where the last wolves were hiding (not just marshes, but uplands too), and protected them in place until the population recovered enough to start other populations in other states. Harder to do that now, but not impossible, and there has already been a great deal of land conservation in the Lower Mississippi River region that could be helpful (witness the recovery of the Louisiana black bear).

I disagree about your "chosen habitat" part. Please remember that the marshlands of coastal Texas and Louisiana were not and are not considered ideal wolf habitat. These were just the last places in the entire Southeast that the wolves hung on despite relentless persecution from growing human populations. We killed something like 99.999% of the wolves in the region, and it is somewhat of a miracle that any have survived all the way to 2019. The Gulf swamps likely weren't good for wolves, but they were even worse for people - just as the panther/cougar only survived in the deep Everglades. If I had to guess, I'd speculate that brown-water river floodplains (like the Mississippi, before it was carved up, and the Roanoke in NC) and the associated upland forests and fields would the most productive wolf habitats.
 

stiab

Ten Pointer
Contributor
In retrospect, I think USFWS should have spent a couple of hundred million dollars back in the 1970's buying up land...around where the last wolves were hiding... and protected them in place...
Please explain how you would have "protected" them against coyote intrusion for the last 35+ years.
 
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ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
well, as Take 'em observed, they seem to have protected themselves to a surprising extent. The prediction had been that if the last wolves weren't rounded up, that they would be genetically swamped by coyotes in short order, and that appears to have either not happened, or happened to a lesser degree than had been feared.

The scientists studying hybridization dynamics in eastern NC have concluded that some combination of coyote management and the apparent preference of wolves to mate with other wolves has led to much lower rates of hybridizing than would be predicted if wolves and coyotes simply mated at random. The evidence from Algonquin Provincial Park seems to indicate that if all canids are protected, the wolves (closely related eastern wolves in that case) can maintain their genetic integrity ok against coyotes.

So my retrospective prediction would be that if several hundred thousand acres of land could have been protected from development, and had an extra layer of all-canid protection thrown in (as would be fitting for a last ditch effort to save one of the world's most endangered animals), and if efforts were made to restore white-tailed deer populations (which were still depressed across the southeast in the 70's due to overharvest by people), then the wolves could have rebounded on their own to a respectable population. Restoring the deer is important to give the wolves a selective evolutionary advantage over coyotes - no sense in being a 70-lb canid if all there is to eat are rabbits and rats. As I recall reading, there were so few deer left when they caught the last red wolves (in marshy habitats that weren't ideal for deer anyway) that the USFWS weren't even sure the wolves ate deer, which is laughable in hindsight but a bit of a sore point for certain people in NC.
 

ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
On the subject of deer in the current red wolf recovery area in North Carolina, here's a map I put together with data from NC DOT, showing the location of all of the wildlife-vehicle crashes on the AP from 2011 to 2017 (almost all of which were with deer, with a few bears and miscellaneous thrown in). Most of the major roads light up pretty well - I don't see much evidence that there is any shortage of deer to run into with your car in the 5-county area. And note that this reflects at best about half of the actual deer-vehicle collisions during that time period - DOT studies have estimated that fewer than half of such crashes are actually reported to the police, which is what is required to make it onto this map.
 

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Take 'em

Six Pointer
As you imply Ron, USFWS knew less than nothing about red wolves 50 years ago, and apparently had not increased the knowledge much by the time they were introduced here in 1987. Claiming the Albemarle Peninsula to be ideal habitat for introduction and believing they would stay where there wasn't an adequate prey base seems absurd at best. Selling the introduction to land owners based on the fact that these animals could be removed from private property "if they strayed" with a darting collar that did not work was not a viable solution.

Now, we are 50 years later and find the animals would have been better left alone in the one place where they were surviving and apparently still are with whatever prey base they have found.

Reminds me of the adage, "We're from the government and we're here to help."
 

ron.sutherland2

Four Pointer
So you are saying they did a better job by themselves than the ones is NC did with extensive intervention. Is that not an argument to end the intervention in NC?
No, that isn't what I'm saying. First, we still don't have a good estimate of how many canids with red wolf DNA still exist along the Gulf Coast, and what average fraction of wolf DNA they have. Could be just a few, though I'm hoping it is a lot. Second, you're ignoring the recent history of the NC population - it grew to 150 animals in the wild by 2006, all high % red wolf. It was doing just fine, till a few people decided to spread misinformation and/or shoot them to oblivion. The USFWS didn't fail to start a decent red wolf recovery project - they failed to defend that project when state political winds rose up against them. I'm sure they made some mistakes in communications with landowners along the way, but as we've seen with a certain real estate developer's recent misinformation campaign, we all make mistakes (e.g. the bit about the wildlife disaster, see page 1 of this thread).
 

Jett

Eight Pointer
Ron,

Would you care to defend this statement please or are you continuing to spread misinformation?

"It was doing just fine, till a few people decided to spread misinformation and/or shoot them to oblivion."

Jett Ferebee
 
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