Genetics and wolf conservation in the American West: lessons and challenges
January 31, 2022
Top predators are endangered throughout the world because of human persecution and habitat destruction. Plans to conserve and restore predator populations are often contentious, but few species are as problematic as the gray wolf (Canis lupus). In the United States, wolf conservation policy and management has often been schizophrenic, ranging from predator control and open hunting to reintroduction and absolute protection. Likewise, public and scientific opinion is equally divided between those who maintain that wolves are an essential part of ecosystems and provide top-down effects contrasting with those who believe wolves cannot readily coexist with humans, especially in landscapes dominated by ranching or farming. In the American West, there have been large-scale reintroductions of the gray wolf (C. lupus nubilus) in the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRMs) and the Mexican wolf (C. lupus baileyi) in the southwest, which provide important lessons for reintroduction efforts elsewhere. In this study, we specifically discuss wolf conservation in the American West in relation to critical genetic factors that affect restoration, recovery and conservation. We also discuss the natural colonization of wolves in Sweden and Norway, and discuss a synthesis of problems and solutions in the large-scale recovery of wolves.
Author(s): R Wayne and P Hedrick