Genetic and morphological differentiation of wolves (Canis lupus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) in northeastern Ontario

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Abstract:

Gray wolves (Canis lupus L., 1758), eastern wolves (Canis lycaon Schreber, 1775), and coyotes (Canis latrans Say, 1823) are presently managed as a single biological population in primary wolf range in Ontario with the intent of minimizing incidental harvest of wolves. This management strategy is based on the assumption that wolves and coyotes cannot be reliably distinguished because of hybridization, and the resulting restrictions on coyote harvest are unpopular with hunters and farmers. We genetically and morphologically characterized a sample of sympatric wolves and coyotes harvested in the Lesser Clay Belt area of northeastern Ontario in 2006–2009 to test the hypothesis that these species cannot be reliably distinguished. We found that wolves and coyotes were genetically and morphologically distinct, with minimal hybridization between them. Our findings suggest that wolves and coyotes in the sampled area can be reliably distinguished, but further sampling is required to determine the full extent of areas in Ontario where wolves and coyotes are reliably distinguishable. We discuss unresolved issues regarding the feasibility of separate management for these species. We also discuss implications of our findings regarding wolf recovery in the northeastern United States.
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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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