Wolves have been front and center in the news since the Trump administration announced their plan to delist gray wolves from the lower 48 states. Now, it looks like no matter the gray wolf’s fate, Red Wolves and Mexican gray wolves will remain protected.
Congress directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to do an independent study of both the Red and Mexican gray wolves to determine their taxonomy. In North Carolina, where the Red Wolf was reintroduced, many believed it was actually a subspecies of coyote. They hoped the study would lead to the Red Wolf being delisted.
The National Academy of Science released their report last week, and it was not the news many expected. The report covered the four taxonomic options for the Red Wolf; distinct wolf species, gray wolf subspecies, coyote subspecies, or a hybrid not belonging to the wolf or coyote family. It said that while Red Wolves show more genetic similarities to coyotes than gray wolves, the Red Wolf is, in fact, its own unique species stemming from an ancient admixture.
The report also said that the Mexican gray wolf is a distinct subspecies of Gray Wolves. “Mexican gray wolves are distinct from other North American gray wolves morphologically, paleontologically, genetically, genomically, behaviorally, and ecologically”.
Red Wolves have been a major point of controversy in North Carolina and the U.S. FWS even announced a plan to reduce their population by half. They said the land could not sustain the number of wolves currently there. Those who believed the wolves were more coyote than wolf wanted to manage them like coyotes. Following the study, the director for the state wildlife commission, Gordon Myers, said, “We have the utmost respect for the Academy, and we appreciate their efforts to better illuminate Red Wolf taxonomy.” Both the Fish and Wildlife Service and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission said they are reviewing the study.
What do you think of the National Acadamy of Science’s report?