America is very often referred to as “The Great Melting Pot”, where for more than 500 years the World’s cultures, nationalities and various ethnic groups have continually mixed and blended into a not so outwardly distinct race of humans. Depending on where in this country you study “Americans”, you are bound to see a different people, a continually changing people – and that’s due to the ethnicity of those who primarily settled the different regions originally, along with the more recent influence of other races or nationalities. The face of America has been an ever changing face, since the arrival of more than one human race, whether from Asia, Europe, or Africa.
The same mixing of cultures and ethnic groups is now also taking place around the globe, making many wonder if the human race worldwide will become one and the same by, say, the year 3000. To keep the population of this old Earth fed, practitioners of animal husbandry have also been doing a little “melting” of their own, crossbreeding different livestock subspecies or strains in order to produce cattle, hogs or sheep that are capable of producing more and higher quality meat, or which can survive and thrive in a wider range of climatic conditions.
Nature has also created a few crossbreeds of its own, in the wild. A couple which have now become something of a problem are the wolf-dog, coy-dog and coy-wolf, involving the crossbreeding of wolves, domestic canines and coyotes. In recent times, over the past couple of decades, there has been an accelerated occurrence of such hybrids, often showing up in the most unusual places – and that has many knowledgeable wildlife experts wondering if all this crossbreeding is getting a little help from pro-predator or pro-wolf groups looking to speed up the rewilding of Earth.
One such occurrence took place in southern Indiana in 2008, near the small town of Gatchel, less than 40 miles due west of Louisville, Kentucky. A rural resident’s dog was attacked by “wolf-like” creatures, and an Indiana Department of Natural Resources officer was dispatched to investigate. While he was there, five of the animals returned – and all five were killed. Channel 14 News, an NBC affiliate located in nearby Evanston, IN aired a report on the attack, and the killing of the “wolf-like” animals. The news caster commented that the animals were, “Currently being tested to see if they are wolves or a hybrid mix.”
But, were they tested?
A few months after that incident, wolf researcher Will Graves, the author of the book “Wolves in Russia – Anxiety Through the Ages” and co-author of the new book “The Real Wolf”, tried to do a follow up on the killing of these five “wolf-like” canines…and it was like the incident never happened. He called the local police department, and could not find anyone who knew anything about what had occurred. Several inquiries were also made with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and with the state Department of Health. The only thing learned was that the conservation officer who appeared on the newscast no longer worked for the Indiana DNR. All the secrecy surrounding the attack raises questions about why it has been covered up.
During the past five or six years, “wolves” have been shot and killed in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Nebraska. The state wildlife agencies in those states, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claim that these “wolves” walked down on their own from northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and northern Michigan – where as many as 5,000 to 6,000 wolves can be found.
But…Did they really?
“Wolf-like” wild canines are now showing up in places like Pennsylvania and Maryland. Claims have been made that these are “coy-wolves”, a cross between coyotes and grey wolves, but such claims only raise even more suspicions. If the 100+ pound hybrids are indeed a cross between coyotes and wolves… “Where did the wolves come from?”
Across the United States there are dozens of so-called “Wolf Parks” or “Wolf Centers”, and dozens more captive wolf breeding facilities. Since the federal government must authorize all such facilities, and those wolves must be accounted for, the number of known “pure bred” wolves in captivity is somewhere around 1,500. However, it is suspected that the number of unknown “pure bred” wolves kept in captivity in this country is much greater. There are also an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 wolf-dog hybrids in America. So, it’s more than a good guess or a good bet that the opportunity for overzealous pro-wolf individuals or groups to do a little wolf transplanting of their own has already been well exercised.
One very real problem arises from such illegal dumping of purposely bred wolf-dog hybrids, or for that matter real wolves of an unknown subspecies, into the wild – and that is the loss of true or pure strain wolves in the wild. Right now, the biggest threat to maintaining the genetic purity of wolves in this country are the people who proclaim they love wolves the most. In many parts of North America, all across Europe, and in many regions of Asia, the genetic damage done to wolf populations is already irreversible. Making the matter even worse is that as those compromised wolves continue to expand their range, the greater the degree of hybridization.
Is that the new agenda of pro-wolf groups and new wave wildlife managers? Is it to create one wolf, one hybrid, one “wolf-like” wild canine worldwide?
In the new wolf book. “The Real Wolf”, co-author Ted Lyon devotes an entire chapter to “Canis Stew”, taking a look at the improbability of ever maintaining a population of real wolves in the Lower 48 States. The chapter takes a look at the more than 1,000 mile wandering of the radio collared male wolf known as OR7, which walked down from northeastern Oregon and into northern California, where for the next year it wandered around another 900 miles before returning to Oregon. Researchers felt the male wolf was simply looking for a mate – and finding none, returned back into Oregon.
Lyon points out in the chapter, that had the wolf travelled only a few more miles south, it likely could have found that mate. Not with another “true wolf”, but with wolf-dog hybrids that had become a problem, and were killing livestock. There, a USDA Wildlife Control Specialist had been called in to trap what some thought were just overly sized coyotes. What the trapper caught were several animals weighing over 100 pounds, which proved to be wolf-dog hybrids.
So, where did they come from?
“The Real Wolf” shares, “The trapper said that, during the last 10 years, he had trapped several dozen similar animals. He said that people who grow marijuana prefer to use wolf dogs for guard dogs and that there is evidence that some people in northern California are raising and releasing wolves and wolf dogs to create a California population.”
Could the same thing be happening in southern Indiana, and in other areas around the country?
The Hosier National Forest, which nearly surrounds the area where those five Indiana “wolf-like” canines were killed in 2008, is a known hotbed for the illegal cultivation of marijuana. In 2010, federal and state agents made a $47.5-million dollar pot bust there, most of it being grown on public National Forest lands. Similar large scale growing operations have also been found on public lands throughout the lower Midwest, Midsouth and Southeast. If wolf-dogs are used to guard those grow operations as well, the spread of wild or even semi-wild “wolf-like” canines could be much worse than the American public realizes.
Wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs are all a part of the same genus – Canis. While not a common occurrence in the wild, all are fully capable of interbreeding. Wolves are known to kill and eat coyotes, and there have been many incidents in the Northern Rockies and in the Upper Midwest over the past couple of decades of wolves killing and eating dogs as well. Still, when there is a shortage of available mates, wolves, coyotes and dogs are known to interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Making the situation worse are all of those man induced crosses and hybrids.
Perhaps the most flagrant violator has been the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To falsely accelerate wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, that agency purposely transplanted an entirely different, larger and non-endangered subspecies (Canis lupus occidentalis) of wolf right in on top of small pockets of truly endangered and significantly smaller native (Canis lupus irremotus) wolves. That one irresponsible act of wildlife mismanagement either resulted in the larger transplants killing out the smaller native wolf…or the interbreeding of the two, to produce a “true wolf hybrid”.
Ed Bangs, who was the project leader for the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Project has even been accused of importing “wolves” from North Central Alberta that were suspected of being Canis lupus occidentalis (grey wolf) and Canis lupus familiaris (sled dog) crosses, or hybrids. One concerned wildlife ecologist took him to task on the claim. Bangs responded by saying if they could survive and reproduce in the wild, he considered them wolves.
Those within the USFWS who have been entrusted with wolf recovery, in accordance with the Endangered Species Act, have further violated wildlife management practices by pen-raising wolf-dog and wolf-coyote crosses and releasing them as Southeastern red wolves (Canis lupus rufus) and as the Mexican grey wolf (Canis lupus baileyi). Both of those projects have been disasters, since the mixed bred transplants continue to look less and less like the “real wolves” they were supposed to be. Between those two failed projects, as much as $50-million of taxpayer dollars have been wasted, and the damage caused by those released mongrels now totals into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
In Europe, wolf hybridization has gotten even more out of hand. The so-called “wolves” now roaming much of the countryside there no longer even look like wolves, or at most only exhibit minor wolf phenotype (appearance). More and more, some wolf biologists throughout what is now known as the European Union are extremely concerned that the acceptance of these animals as wolves is being entirely based on DNA samples. They point out that wolf DNA should be expected when conducting these tests, since domestic dogs are direct descendants of the wolf – both are Canis lupus relatives.
In Finland, one group of more than a dozen hunters organized a hunt to rid a rural farming and livestock rearing community of hybrid wild wolf-dogs that had been attacking livestock. Several of those “wolf-like” canines were killed, and now the pro-wolf movement there has pushed legal action against those hunters – even though the so-called wolves killed looked more like German shepherd dogs than wolves. The hunters now face an upcoming trial, and if found guilty each also faces up to 6 years in prison.
At what point are these hybrids no longer wolves, but rather nothing more than wild dogs?
Wolf hybridization has become a major problem just about everywhere there are wolves, especially the closer the wolves are to human settlements with domestic canines. The jackals of Africa and dingoes of Australia are also beginning to interbreed with domestic dogs. The current hybrid problem is due to the fact that there are now so many domestic dogs in the world, providing the greater opportunity for wild canines and dogs to co-inhabit within somewhat close proximity. That’s especially true where man-created hybrids are allowed to run freely. Over the past several months, an international assembly of respected wolf biologists, wildlife managers, researchers, veterinarians and doctors have formed a new group that will tackle the hybrid problem, mostly to track human and wolf hybrid conflict, such as the legal action against the Finnish hunters who were eliminating nothing more than a pack of mongrel wolf-dog hybrids. This same group also intends to become a major international source for wolf science and research. As this is written, the group is so new that it has yet to settle on a name.
Here in America, one real fear among sportsmen, livestock producers and rural residents is that staunch pro-wolf groups will begin to demand full protection of wolf-dog hybrids as well. In a way, considering the manner in which USFWS has already relied on hybrid crosses, severely compromising the genetic purity of the very questionable wolves released in both the Red Wolf Recovery Project and the Mexican Grey Wolf Project, we’ve already crossed that line of wildlife management ethics. So, where do these wolf recovery wildlife disasters go from here? – Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH
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