Wild Animals/Red wolf

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Question
Is it your opinion that the red wolf population is extinct in SW Louisiana?

And is it your opinion that the red wolf gene pool is no longer isolated from interbreeding with the coyote population?

Is it possible to differentiate Red Wolf from Coyote tracks based on size comparison?

Thank you for your information.

Answer
Dear Michael,

1.  Is it your opinion that the red wolf population is extinct in SW Louisiana?

I'm not enough of a "red wolf" expert to know that specific information.  That would be the job of a research specialist in the area.

2.  And is it your opinion that the red wolf gene pool is no longer isolated from interbreeding with the coyote population?

Some research and DNA evidence suggests that the "red wolf" is actually not a distinct species, but rather a hybrid of a coyote and a timber wolf.  Please see:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/2409486

It's controversial, and people get pretty upset when you suggest that the Red Wolf may not be a true species.  But speciation can sometimes occur via hybridization, and it might be that the Red Wolf is an incipient species that now--because of human encroachment on its habitat--is being forced back into sympatry with coyotes, with which they can still interbreed.

3.  Is it possible to differentiate Red Wolf from Coyote tracks based on size comparison?

I doubt it, since individuals of different ages will have different sized feet.   There is doubtless quite a bit of overlap.

Hope this helps.

Dana

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I'm an evolutionary biologist with a passion for animals. Ask about natural history, behavior, ecology, evolution. PLEASE NOTE:

If you have found an "orphaned" or injured wild animal or bird:
Please don't waste time asking questions on the internet, as the answers may come too late. DO NOT FEED THE ANIMAL, and DO NOT HANDLE IT unless it is in imminent danger. (Many wild "orphans" are not orphans at all!) If you are absolutely sure it is orphaned, keep it warm and quiet, and find a LICENSED WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR HERE. Don't try to raise a baby yourself, or rehabilitate an injured anmal. Many a well-intentioned rescuer will do more harm than good, especially with baby birds and baby rabbits.

I.D. OF MYSTERY ANIMALS
Without geographic location, time of day and habitat, I can't help. A clear picture is always best.

I.D. OF MYSTERY ANIMAL SOUNDS
It's impossible for me to I.D. an animal call without hearing it myself.

COMPARATIVE STRENGTHS
I'm not an expert on comparative strengths of different animals (more complicated than you might think!) nor bite forces.

FIGHTING ANIMALS
I refuse to answer "Which of these two animals--X or X--would win in a fight?".

These hypothetical matchups range from impossible (Grizzly Bears and Gorillas don't even occupy the same continent.) to ridiculous (Someone asked me "Who would win a fight between a Great White Shark and a tiger?").

The vast majority of animals--even the fierce and powerful--are not as warlike as Homo sapiens, and it's childish to project our aggressiveness onto them.

Experience

I have been the fortunate caregiver to a group of Black-tailed Jackrabbits rescued from the Miami International Airport, and not releasable in this area because they are not native. I also have rehabbed and released Eastern Cottontails, and am in contact with many very experienced wildlife rescuers who regularly handle injured or orphaned rabbits and hares.

Organizations
House Rabbit Society

Publications
Exotic DVM journal

Education/Credentials
I have a Ph.D. in Biology, with main areas of expertise in evolutionary biology, genetics, botany, and ecology.

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