Distinct genes of the red wolf and the Mexican gray wolf worthy of protection


For immediate release, March 28, 2019

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017, michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org

Report: Distinct genes of the red wolf and the gray wolf of Mexico worthy of protection

Scientific findings support retention of “endangered” federal designations

WASHINGTON – A panel from the National Academy of Sciences today declared red wolves in the southeast and gray wolves of Mexico in the southwest as separate species and subspecies, respectively. The discovery reinforces the fact that the two wolves should continue to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Academy panel investigated whether wolves are genetically valid species and subspecies. He determined that the two endangered canines are indeed distinct, as scientists and the federal government have been saying for years.

The study was commissioned, in a 2018 appropriation bill that funded the US Fish and Wildlife Service, by Republican lawmakers in the Southeast and Southwest, the two regions where wolves live. These lawmakers want to strip Mexican red and gray wolves of endangered species protection through congressional runners.

This would allow for a destructive bypassing of the scientific assessment to determine whether the species is in fact recovered, as required by the Endangered Species Act.

“Confirmation of this report is reassuring, but the study was truly a waste of time wolves cannot afford,” said Michael Robinson, senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need to stop studying what these wolves are and instead focus on protecting them so that we don’t lose their unique genetic makeup.”

Scientists have long noted distinct morphological differences between Mexican gray wolves and other gray wolves further north, and between red wolves and gray wolves. Their smaller sizes, for example, are an obvious distinguishing feature. In recent decades, scientists have examined the genetic specificity of the two wolves. Today’s report summarizes this research.

“For millennia, Mexican wolves and red wolves have been the iconic canids helping to balance the wild lands in which they live,” said Robinson. “To continue to play their vital role as high-level carnivores, we need to change course, free animals from captivity to the wild and help ensure that they not only survive, but thrive. “

Only 24 known red wolves remain in the wild, surviving in five sparsely populated counties in eastern North Carolina. In June, President Donald Trump’s Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a new management rule for the species that would reduce its protected range to 10% of its current size. It would also legalize the slaughter of any wolves wandering outside the newly restricted area.

Mexican gray wolves have been reintroduced to Arizona and New Mexico, and separately to northern Mexico. The two populations together number about 150 animals. All Mexican wolves come from just seven wild-caught ancestors. The mismanagement of the American population has aggravated the close kinship of the descendants of these seven people.

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