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Wolf Genetics Study Shows Diversity is Lacking

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Friday, November 5, 2010   

CASPER, Wyo. - Much of the debate about wolf recovery has focused on the number of wolves in each state. But another indicator of recovery success considered under the endangered species law is whether or not packs are interbreeding to ensure genetic diversity. A new round of DNA testing shows there is some success to report, but there's a glaring lack of genetic exchange with packs in Yellowstone National Park.

Study author and carnivore biologist Bob Wayne says it may just be a matter of time, though.

"There is some migration into the Greater Yellowstone Area, but there's still no migrants into Yellowstone National Park."

Wayne believes the study has been misinterpreted by those saying the research proved the gene pool to be strong, when in fact, it doesn't make that statement.

He predicts that more wolf pack mingling will happen over time, and even in Yellowstone, but more time is needed, along with scientific proof.

"There's been a bit of a disease epidemic and the population has crashed by a third, or so. That may leave more openings for migrating wolves to come in and successfully reproduce -- just don't know."

Wayne takes issue with those claiming 100 animals per state means "full recovery," since that doesn't take into account the genetic diversity needed to keep the species healthy.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped pay for the DNA research, which was published in the October issue of the journal Molecular Ecology.



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