Systematics of wolves in eastern North America

OCLC: 36346945
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Cranial morphology of Recent wolves throughout northern and western North America is remarkably consistent. Statistical analysis indicates the presence of four subspecies of gray wolf (Canis lupus) there, which are always distinguishable from the sympatric coyote (C. latrans). A fifth gray wolf subspecies, lycaon, occurs in southeastern Canada, and the red wolf (C. rufus), is found in the southeast. During the early 1900s the coyote moved east of the prairies and hybridized with the native wolves, thereby creating much confusion. Nonetheless, analysis of every available specimen of wild Canis, dating from before the coyote invasion in the region east of the Mississippi River and south of Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York, does indicate the presence of a small wolf, distinct from the coyote and showing the statistical consistency of other wolf populations. That series also has close affinity to specimens of the red wolf collected in Louisiana and Missouri prior to 1925, and to Pleistocene fossils from the east. There was a sharp line of morphological distinction between the wolves of the eastern United States and those of the prairies, but a closer approach by the former to the subspecies lycaon, which in turn intergrades with gray wolf populations in western Ontario and Minnesota. Although gaps in our knowledge remain, a reasonable hypothesis is that the entire forested region from southeastern Canada to the Gulf Coast originally was inhabited by populations of small wolves, with a subspecific or specific line just south of the eastern Great Lakes. There is no evidence that southeastern North America ever was occupied by large gray wolves and coyotes that hybridized to form the red wolf.

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Systematics of wolves in eastern North America
Year Published 1996
Language English
Publisher Defenders of Wildlife
Publisher location Washington, DC.
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 302
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Other Government Series
Larger Work Title Proceedings, Defenders of Wildlife's wolves of America conference, 14-16 November 1996, Albany, NY
First page 187
Last page 203