FOR MANY YEARS PRIOR TO

Canadian Wildlife - - WILD THINGS -

its re-des­ig­na­tion by COSEWIC in 2015, the Al­go­nquin, or eastern, wolf, was con­sid­ered a sub­species of the grey wolf, a larger an­i­mal that is much more widely dis­persed across much of the coun­try, ei­ther in its pure form or as hy­brid crossed with the eastern wolf in and around the north­ern Great Lakes. While the idea that it might be a sep­a­rate species was raised some time ago, that no­tion was hotly dis­puted by oth­ers — spark­ing a lengthy de­bate in the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity and caus­ing more wide­spread ques­tion­ing of the wolf’s con­ser­va­tion value.

It was Linda Rut­ledge who did much of the DNA work in the past decade that con­firmed the Al­go­nquin wolf ’s unique ge­netic makeup, trac­ing it back to an an­ces­tor that evolved in­de­pen­dently of grey wolves and along­side coy­otes. And while that re­search has spawned a cascade of changes in our un­der­stand­ing and ap­proach to the an­i­mal, its most im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion might be that it has turned the Al­go­nquin wolf ’s ori­gin story from a source of con­fu­sion and dis­missal into the pri­mary ar­gu­ment for its on­go­ing preser­va­tion.

“The ar­gu­ment about ge­netic ori­gin is an aca­demic dis­cus­sion,” says Rut­ledge. “What’s im­por­tant is mov­ing for­ward with what we can agree on. And what we can agree on is they’re wor­thy of con­ser­va­tion.”a

WOR­THY OF CON­SER­VA­TION Af­ter decades of de­bate and dis­agree­ment, now at least there is con­sen­sus: Al­go­nquin wolves de­serve to be con­served

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