April 3, 2024 | By:

Exploring the Identity of Wild Canids in the Northeast

© Maine Wolf Coalition

Officially, wolves haven’t lived in the Northeast since the late 1800s and today wildlife agencies define the species as “extirpated,” or locally extinct. Yet these wide-ranging animals have an amazing ability to show up where they’re least expected, a fact most recently documented in late 2021 near Cooperstown, New York. In that case, as well as numerous others across the region, the wolf who had crossed borders and roamed hundreds of miles became known because it was tragically shot by a coyote hunter.

This case of “mistaken identity” wasn’t surprising. A growing body of genetic research and on-the-ground observations demonstrate how coyotes and wolves have interbred and how large and “wolf like” animals defined as eastern coyotes can be. Yet while most wolves are classified as an endangered and federally protected species, coyotes can be hunted nearly all year round and virtually without limits.

These two facts are starting to converge, posing challenges for both wildlife advocates and agencies. There is an urgent need for more information about the “who, what, and where” of wild canids in the Northeast to change the approach of state agencies and inform stronger and more ecologically effective wildlife protections.

With these challenges in mind, The Rewilding Institute will be leading a session at the Northeast Natural History Conference in Albany the weekend of April 19-21. Titled Wild canids in the Northeast: roaming into a mix of genetics and policy, the session will feature TRI’s Northeast Carnivore Advocate Nadia Steinzor, Project Coyote’s Renee Seacor, and Princeton University’s Bridgett vonHoldt and discuss new methods to understand the genetics of resident and migrating canids and how admixed canids should be treated by state and federal agencies. They will also present opportunities to shift policies in the Northeast, such as upcoming State Wildlife Action Plans, more resources and education for the public and hunters, and a developing national wolf recovery plan. Registration for the conference is open until April 14. For more information, see the main page for the Northeast Natural History Conference.

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