Literature Review: Wolves and Coyotes

by Carl Strang

New information about coyotes and wolves always seems to have a little extra zest.

Coyote

Coyote

Hennessy, Cecilia A., Jean Dubach, and Stanley D. Gehrt. 2012. Long-term pair bonding and genetic evidence for monogamy among urban coyotes (Canis latrans). J. Mammal. 93:732-742.

This study was yet another contribution from the group led by Stan Gehrt of Ohio State. Chicago region coyotes are monogamous (litters show common parentage), and pair bonds are long-lasting. (Note how many person-weeks of intensive study can produce a primary result that can be stated in a single sentence.)

Wheeldon, Tyler, and Brent Patterson. 2012. Coyotes in wolves’ clothing. Am. Midl. Nat. 167:416-420.

They examined 3 pups from the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan which were wolf-like. These proved to be “coyotes but revealed evidence of maternal introgression from a Great Lakes wolf in their pedigree. These findings suggest that Great Lakes wolves are capable of interbreeding with coyotes when conspecifics are rare.” Tracks and trail camera images from the area had shown what appeared to be a wolf, but these results point to an unusually large coyote or a hybrid. They think the most likely scenario is that a wolf immigrated from the Upper Peninsula population and mated with a coyote. This study caught my eye because of my experience of hearing a possible wolf-plus-coyote chorus at Chain O’Lakes State Park last summer.

Wolf at Wolf Park in Indiana

Wolf at Wolf Park in Indiana

William J. Ripple, Robert L. Beschta. Large predators limit herbivore densities in northern forest ecosystems. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 2012; DOI: 10.1007/s10344-012-0623-5

(As described in ScienceDaily article). In a review of data from all around the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the removal of large predators, especially wolves, has had a profound negative effect on forest ecosystems. In their absence, deer and other large herbivores achieve population densities 6 times larger; their overconsumption of plants interferes with tree reproduction, and has a cascading impact on biodiversity generally. Erosion increases, stream and forest quality decreases, and carbon sequestration is greatly reduced. Effects are multiplied by other large and medium-sized predators which are supported in some seasons by scavenging from wolf kills. Because of this, the year-round behavioral response of the herbivores to the wolves, and the more limited removal of the herbivores, human hunting is not a completely equivalent substitute (as Aldo Leopold learned to his chagrin from the Kaibab Plateau fiasco).

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