Keeper Katy and I recently attended a talk at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences titled “The History and Future of the Red Wolf (Canis rufus) in North Carolina.” It was given by Justin Bohling from the University of Idaho, who is a graduate student in Lisette Wait’s lab. Besides giving a good background on the history of the Red Wolf Recovery Project administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), he presented his application of some new genetic techniques developed by Jennifer Adams.
Justin was able to travel over much of eastern North Carolina and sample suspected wolf scat (poop) from areas outside the area currently managed by the FWS. By extracting and amplifying DNA from the scat samples using the method pioneered by Adams and the Wait’s lab, he was able to identify the sources of the poop samples. Not surprisingly, many of them were from domestic dogs and coyotes. The genetic techniques he employs will allow him to identify any hybrids between red wolves and coyotes. This information was formerly gathered by collecting blood samples from wolves and coyotes trapped in a non-injurous manner. Obviously, scat sampling is a lot less labor intensive and should lead to more information about the breeding habits of North Carolina’s Red Wolf population.
Keeper Marilyn has written extensively about red wolves in case you need additional information:
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