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Princeton DNA analysis reveals New York animal was a wolf

File photo of a gray wolf, Canis lupus. Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service/J&K Hollingsworth

DEC publishes its genetic report

By Mike Lynch

A Princeton University DNA examination revealed that a canine killed by a hunter near Cooperstown was a gray wolf.

This is the second independent test to come to this conclusion for an 85-pound canine killed in December. The Princeton findings contrast with the findings of the lab hired by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and come days after 38 people from state and national organizations wrote to the DEC asking for action to protect the wolves that potentially live in New York State or disperse here.

“What the DEC needs to do based on this second confirmation is they need to do more to educate the people of New York that wolves are coming into the state and wolves coming into the state have right to protections under endangered species. Take action,” said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks.

Wildlife advocates have called on the DEC to review and restrict coyote hunting regulations, in addition to educating hunters about wolves and coyotes. There is no limit to the number of coyote hunters killed during the season which runs 24 hours a day from October 1 to March 26. Wolf advocates say hunters can kill wolves that are misidentified as coyotes.

Bauer also said the DEC should release details of the test it conducted by the Wildlife Genetics Institute at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. DEC said the analysis determined the animal was “closely identified as an eastern coyote,” with a mix of coyote, wolf and dog genetics.

Explorer submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the report in August, and Bauer said Protect submitted a request shortly after the first test results were released in July. The state provided the explorer with a copy of the report on Wednesday afternoon.

The report, which can be found above, determined the animal to be an eastern coyote, “a natural hybrid of wolves.” He determined that the canid’s maternal line was 99.9% coyote. However, he found that the animal was 65.2% wolf and 34.8% coyote.

Wolves disappeared from New York State around 1900 due to habitat loss and because they were targeted by hunters and bounties. At least two dead wolves have been found here over the years, including one in the southern Adirondacks in 2001 and one in Sterling in 2005. Both were killed by hunters.

They are now listed as an endangered species in New York due to their historical presence. People are not allowed to kill them without a permit. DEC said it does not plan to prosecute the central New York hunter, who remained unnamed. Wolves are also protected by federal policies.

Wolf populations exist north to New York State in Canada and west to Michigan and Wisconsin. They are found in 11 states in total.

Wolves, which disperse to form their own packs, are known to travel hundreds of miles in search of new territories.

A species assessment conducted by the DEC determined that the Adirondacks Park has 6,000 square miles of suitable habitat for the wolf.

In July, the Natural Resources DNA Profiling & Forensic Center at Trent University in Ontario released its genetic analysis of the central New York wolf and found the animal to be 98% a gray wolf.

Trent University analysis determined the animal to be 52.6% Great Lakes wolf, 34.5% Northwest Territories wolf and 10.9% Atlantic wolf. ‘East. The remaining 2% was a mix of coyote and dog genes.

Princeton’s analysis determined that the animal was 96.2% Great Lakes gray wolf, 1.6% gray wolf, and 1.4% eastern wolf. Dog and coyote DNA accounted for less than 1% each.

These results do not last on this animal. DEC has also submitted a sample of this canine to the Princeton lab for genetic testing and is expecting the results in early October. The ministry told the explorer it plans to do further testing on the animal to determine if it is wild or captive if its test identifies the animal as a wolf.

Tissue samples used in this final test were submitted by Joe Butera, who heads the nonprofit Northeastern Ecological Recovery Society, on behalf of several organizations that have come together for this cause.

“Apex predator populations are critical to healthy ecosystems,” the recent letter to DEC states. “The absence of highly interacting species that are essential for maintaining habitat and other natural functions, such as wolves and cougars, has left a functional void in our ecosystems that has degraded the overall quality of environment.”


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