Thursday, 17 Jan 2019

The World of Wolves

The World of Wolves

“The World of Wolves”

Edited by Marco Musiani, Luigi Boitani and Paul C. Paquet   

The gray wolf is perhaps one of the world’s most polarizing and controversial species. As the epitome of charismatic mega fauna, it has evoked the respect and adoration of many. However, in nearly all ecological and socio-political contexts, wolves have also stirred deep and often extreme sentiments of fear and hatred. These feelings in turn are derived from, and contribute to, conflicts with people, including the occasional threat to human life. The strong negative reactions to wolves have facilitated widespread programs of eradication across much of their historic range.

The World of Wolves - photo 1

The World of Wolves

Academically, wolves have also received much attention, and are one of the most studied mammalian species in nature. The scientific literature on their ecology and behaviour approaches several thousand publications, with programs all over the world continuing to study wolf biology and management. The strength and persistence of this interest is a direct result of ongoing wolf/human relationships, wolves’ ecological flexibility, and our increased understanding of their evolution and behaviour. Wolves’ future will depend largely upon decisions made by people that in turn are based upon attitudes and emotions, in addition to ecological findings.

The World of Wolves - photo 2

The World of Wolves

We wish to evaluate the biological issues with the intent of providing counsel on how to ease conflict and promote the coexistence of wolves and humans. This book uses research sample cases from Eurasia and North America to explain the key role played by wolves in community ecology of natural ecosystems and of systems where domestic animals and people are also present. It also analyzes the pivotal role always played by wolves in wildlife management and conservation biology programs, due both to the species’ ecological relevance and to passionate human attitudes and conflicts with wolves.

The World of Wolves - photo 3

The World of Wolves

This book provides insights into wolf behaviour and biology. Such insights act as effective “entry points” for delving into the broader aspects of ecology and evolution relating to a myriad of species, ecosystem processes, and functions. The organization of this approach unites several aspects of wildlife management, thereby contributing to an advanced understanding of contemporary conservation theory and practice. Each chapter details a research project or a research area representative of a specific aspect of wolf management and conservation. We emphasize projects from distant and culturally diverse regions of the world to highlight their original, unexpected, or previously undocumented contributions.

The World of Wolves - photo 4

The World of Wolves

For example, Cluff et al. document a management strategy of wolves where the primary objective is to affect densities of prey, such as caribou, for the benefit of aboriginal hunters and at the potential expense of wolves. Additional chapters consider potential cascade-effects initiated by reintroduction of wolves in Idaho and Yellowstone and their effects on wildlife management in the United States. Still others document management of Introduction 3 wolf populations that straddle the border between Western and Eastern Europe, where human culture and attitudes are clearly diversified.

The World of Wolves - photo 5

The World of Wolves

The first section of this book describes wolf ecology, genetics, and behaviour in ecosystems and conditions that are generally considered as ‘natural.’ However, humans have arguably had a major influence on wolves throughout the species range and throughout history. Wayne describes genetic variability in current, historic, and ‘long past’ wolf populations. He establishes a link between historical human-caused population declines, loss of genetic diversity, and trends in canid evolution. These findings confirm that contemporary population genetics as well as the evolution of wolves into the future will continue to depend upon human influences, a fact that should not be underestimated, even with wolf populations in many areas on the road to recovery.

The World of Wolves - photo 6

The World of Wolves

Wayne also indicates that human influences on wolves and alterations of their habitat could contribute to hybridization between wolves and other canids. For example, in some areas of southeastern Canada, the resident wolf may be a genetically distinct species of North American wolf, Canis lycaon. In addition, individuals assigned to lycaon might belong to a remnant population segment of eastern North American wolves, also including the Red Wolf, Canis rufus. Thus, some authors maintain that the two species (i.e., lycaon and rufus) should be lumped. In the book, Wayne illustrates that both lycaon and rufus hybridize with coyotes, and lycaon also hybridizes with common wolves.

The World of Wolves - photo 7

The World of Wolves

The author argues that hybridization could be induced by reductions in wolf densities through both persecution by humans and habitat loss. With a lack of conclusive evidence on species’ taxonomy, significant resources are spent each year for the conservation of these putative wolf species, in particular for Canis rufus, which is critically endangered and could not be viable without management intervention. Finally, Coppinger et al. describe human influences (i.e., through artificial selection) on an important ‘species’ of wolf, the domestic dog. 4 The World of Wolves Chapters by Coppinger et al. and by Wayne show that stray dogs and wolves may also live and interbreed in nature.

The World of Wolves - photo 8

The World of Wolves

According to Coppinger et al., interbreeding between dogs and wolves invalidates the biological species concept that would classify them into two separate species. Clearly, there is substantial gene flow between existing populations and species of wolf-like canids. Some canids are considered separate species of high conservation value, but have never been demonstrated to be separate species. Given these unknowns, Coppinger et al. suggest that conservation programs should encourage viable populations of the genus Canis in the habitats they wish to restore. Notwithstanding the ‘genetic melting pot,’ conservation of canids is warranted given the critical functions and ecological roles these carnivores exert across a variety of ecosystems.

The World of Wolves - photo 9

The World of Wolves

To be continued…

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