Wolf tagged in upstate New York during coyote season

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Last winter, a hunter in upstate New York tagged what he thought was a giant eastern coyote. But when he posted images of the large canine on Facebook, commenters began to cry wolf. They said the size and stature of the large animal he shot was more indicative of a gray wolf than a small eastern coyote. So the hunter voluntarily submitted samples of his harvest to a genetics research lab in Ontario, Canada. Surprisingly, these results showed that the dog he shot was actually 98% Canis lupus with DNA from three wolf subspecies: the Great Lakes, the Northwest Territories and the gray wolf of ballast.

When the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) got wind of these lab results, which were funded by local wolf advocacy groups, they decided to do their own genetic testing, and their results contradicted the tests performed at the Canadian laboratory. “Initial DNA analysis determined that the wild canid was most closely identified as an eastern coyote,” DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino told WETM in August. She added that the eastern New York coyote population is known to exhibit mixed genetics and that “further testing is underway to provide more clarity on the genetic makeup of this animal.”

Now the results of a new test are in and NYDEC has completely reversed course. In a Sept. 22 news release, the department said the “animal captured by a hunter in Cherry Valley, Otsego County during the 2021 coyote hunting season was a wolf.” The inversion is based on a more recent analysis by Dr. Bridgett vonHoldt, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University. According to the DEC, vonHoldt’s tests indicate that the animal is most likely from the Great Lakes wolf population, but experts don’t know if it’s an entirely wild wolf or an animal raised in the wild. captivity. “Captive wolves released into the wild in New York City have been documented in the past,” the press release read.

Official confirmation of a wolf living in an area whose species became extinct over a century ago is big news, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that wolf populations are now established in the woods of New York. , the department said. “At this time, natural recolonization of wolves in New York City is unlikely,” the DEC said. “For a wolf pack to be established in the state, breeding populations of female wolves would have to return to the state and mate with male wolves that typically roam farther from their packs.”

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Those who think wolves migrate to New York say the animals arrive from Canada during the winter via the frozen St. Lawrence River. According to the International Wolf Center, Quebec is home to around 7,000 wolves, while the neighboring province of Ontario is home to more than 9,000. Like other large carnivores, wolves are prone to wander, and the National Park Service claims that the lone dispersing animals have traveled up to 800 kilometers in search of a new home.

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