Tests show vexing Montana predator was a domestic wolf

Although Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks took a lot of heat last year for the mystery canid that killed lots of livestock for many months in NE Montana, it turns out it was a domestic wolf that someone turned loose.

Story by Mike Stark in the Billings Gazette.

The fact that they were able to trace its genetics so clearly (basically a “mongrel” wolf) shows how much genetic data on wolves the government has, and again shows the lie about that mythic species, invented by anti-wolf folks — the terrible monster “Canadian wolf.”



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  1. Layton Avatar

    Does it really??

    This quote:

    “Tests at the labs determined that the animal wasn’t the product of a free-roaming wild wolf population in the Northern Rockies, the Midwest or Canada.

    It didn’t have any DNA matching domestic dogs. Its maternal genes came from the Great Lakes, its paternal DNA was from the lower 48, and other DNA came from Alaska, the analysis showed”

    would seem to indicate to me that they CAN tell the difference between “Northern Rockies, Midwest, and Canadian wolves”

    Am I not reading something correctly??


  2. Howard Avatar

    Layton’s comment is interesting, and most certainly deserves an answer…I say that because I don’t want skirt the matter…but I just wanted to post on this thread concerning another matter.

    Basically, this case is an other excellent example of why wolves and other wild carnivores are NOT pets. It’s unclear where this wolf came from, but there are many thousands of wolves and wolf hybrids (not to mention exotic wild cats) kept in the US. The results are frequently catastrophic for both the animals and the surrounding humans. Often, captive wolves and cats are much more dangerous/destructive than their wild cousins because they are so acclimated to humans. People, particularly the well-intentioned, must be made aware that wild animals (and I mean species, not necessarily born in the wild…an African lion bred in captivity should fall under this designation for ownership purposes)don’t follow the same “rules” bred for thousands of years into Rover and Fluffy.

  3. Moose Avatar

    I agree w/ Layton, there needs to be additional information about how they came to the decision it was a “domestic wolf.” I don’t know much about animal genetics, but this article raises additional questions.

    Like what? webmaster.

  4. Alan Sachanowski Avatar
    Alan Sachanowski

    Though admittedly a layperson, I would nevertheless submit that my DNA is different from Layton’s; yet we are not different species. Regarding size: horse jockey or NBA center, homo sapiens all.
    Additionally, no one has even attempted to explain why the 49th parallel, a man made imaginary boundary, would be a species (or sub species) demarcation line. Especially since wolves are known to disperse great distances and readily breed with other sub species.
    The entire sub species argument reminds me of the Baltimore Oriole, Bullocks Oriole, Northern Oriole discussion that has gone on since I can remember. It’s for taxonomists to fight out, and has absolutely nothing to do with the niche that they fill in the ecosystem.
    Whenever someone begins an argument with the “Canadian wolves” nonsense I automatically dismiss anything else they may have to say; and I’ll bet I’m not the only one.

  5. Moose Avatar

    “Its maternal genes came from the Great Lakes, its paternal DNA was from the lower 48, and other DNA came from Alaska, the analysis showed.”

    Do Great Lakes wolves share certain DNA markers with those wolves residing in Canada? I’m assuming there has been interbreeding betwix wolves from N. Minn and those in Ontario at some point in the past(49th parallel is not a wall). Same could be said for any remnant pop. of wolves that existed in Montana before “reintro”, ie Manitoba, Sask.? How distinct are these genes between pop.s?

    I don’t buy into the “super wolves” paranoia, and I’m not doubting either labs findings – as I said above I do not have a bckgrd in genetics. I just have additional questions about how genetically pure these distinct pop.s are ie, Canadian vs Lower 48 vs. Great Lakes (lower 48 as well) vs. Alaskan wolves.

    If anyone has a resource that might better explain these distinctions I would appreciate that info.


  6. Cordell Yeager Avatar
    Cordell Yeager

    I recently had a chance to talk to a wolf biologist from Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada. He said there is hybridization happening along the northern and southern ranges of the park. In the north gray wolves mate with the algonquin(eastern)wolves and in the south the algonquins mate with coyotes. He said eventually it could be possible to get a gray with some coyote genes and vice versa. It goes to show that borders are something that we as humans invent.

  7. Layton Avatar

    Darn funny to me that genetics can “prove” that this is a “mongrol” wolf, but those SAME genetics aren’t good enough to “prove” that there is a Canadian wolf.

    Even though the tests reference “free-roaming wild wolf population in the Northern Rockies, the Midwest or Canada.”

    How can you have it both ways??


    I’ve got it in print now!! A certified wolf guy admitting that he and I are “not different species” Are you sure they won’t kick you out of the club?? ;^)


  8. Sal Avatar

    I find it interesting that most strings have talked about the DNA testing and not other parts of the article.
    Initially this animal did not hunt well, then adapted etc. then the “domestic wolf” charachteristics this animal displayed – claws, teeth etc.

    And what was not written is that some highly irresponsible person released – let escape – and did not try to find their “pet” which caused harm. By my count this rancher lost more than $12K in “assets”.

    It is a sad story for both sides of this story. But in the long run who cares right? I am just another person from CA where we know nothing except that Lamb is from New Zealand (instead of MT) and the California Grizzly only exists on our state flag and a couple museums as taxidermied animals.

    And oh by the way, we did clone a cow, a sheep and a cat so DNA can be analyzed to the n’th degree it just takes money and time.


  9. Cordell Yeager Avatar
    Cordell Yeager

    From the International Wolf Center, Ely Minnesota:

    The gray wolf, Canis lupus, lives in the northern latitudes around the world. There are five subspecies of the gray wolf in North America and seven to 12 in Eurasia. The currently recognized subspecies in North America are:

    Canis lupus baileyi, commonly referred to as the Mexican wolf or lobo.

    Canis lupus nubilus, referred to as the Great Plains or buffalo wolf.

    Canis lupus occidentalis, known as the Rocky Mountain wolf or Mackenzie Valley wolf.
    Canis lupus lycaon, commonly referred to as the eastern timber wolf.

    Canis lupus arctos, known as the arctic wolf.

    Subspecies are often difficult to distinguish from one another. This is because they interbreed where their ranges overlap so that their populations tend to blend together rather than form distinctive boundaries. The different traits we see in subspecies are likely the result of geographic range, available habitat, and prey base. Skull dimensions, overall size, fur color, and the length of appendages are some of the characteristics that differ between subspecies of gray wolf.

    I don’t see a canis lupis canadasis listed here. I guess the border does not affect genetics. As just a lay-person I guess I would look at habitat – what is the difference in habitat for each sub-species. How does the Canadian Rockies differ from the US Rockies? I don’t see much difference between MT, ID, WY and Alberta until you get farther north.

  10. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I sure wish I could see the complete “prepared” statement rather than only one quote by an actual scientist from the forensics lab. There seems to be some glaring inconsistencies in this article that make me wonder, i.e. “the maternal genes came from the great lakes region, the paternal DNA was from the lower 48, and other DNA came from Alaska.” Then in a different paragraph it says”….wasn’t the product of a free roaming wild wolf population in the Northern Rockies, the Midwest or Canada.” Okay, lets look at those two statements. Last I looked at a map the great lakes were right in the middle of the Midwest(the lower 48) and Canada. So how could this animal have genes from those two areas in one paragraph but not in the other paragraph.(Remember the Northern Rocky Mountains are not a possibility.)So where did the DNA from the lower 48 come from if not the Midwest. It would have to be either c.l.rufus or c.l. baileyi. Okay, that takes care of Dad, what about Mom. One sentence says the great lakes region, another sentence says not from the Midwest or Canada. Huh? Can anyone tell me what I’m missing here other than an over editorialized article that really just muddies the water.

  11. Cordell Yeager Avatar
    Cordell Yeager

    From Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Website:

    “Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks learned today that the animal likely responsible for a rash of eastern Montana livestock depredations last year was a domestic wolf, and not a wild Rocky Mountain gray wolf.

    The domestic wolf was suspected of killing more than 120 sheep and injuring a number of others in eight different incidents in Dawson, Garfield and McCone counties from December 2005 and July 2006.

    Although there was some question early on about the animal’s genetic origin, FWP authorized affected landowners, USDA Wildlife Services, and county predator-control specialists to kill the elusive animal. The animal was eventually killed by federal agents on a Garfield County ranch east of Jordan last November.

    To determine the animal’s origin and genetic make up, samples were sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon and to Dr. Bob Wayne’s genetics laboratory at UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in California.

    Both labs determined independently that the animal did not come from, nor was the animal’s genetics consistent with, wild free-ranging wolf populations in the Northern Rockies, the Midwest, or Canada.

    The genetic experts concluded that the animal was a product of human-manipulated breeding in a domestic, captive situation.

    “This individual displays classic characteristics of being a domestic wolf,” said Dyan Straughan, a forensic scientist at the National Forensics Laboratory. “The hodgepodge mixture of DNA found does not occur naturally in wild wolves in North America.”

    Lab results revealed DNA from three different sources, including maternal DNA from the Great Lakes region, paternal DNA from the lower 48 states, and DNA closely related to wolves in Alaska. It is the presence of all three DNA sources that preclude the possibility of the animal being a wild wolf.

    The carcass’s orange color, small foot size and general appearance also did not match typical wild, free ranging wolves. Other physical evidence also suggest that the animal had been in captivity, including long claws, tartar stains on the teeth, and teeth that were in relatively good condition compared to most four-year-old wild wolves.

    “The National Forensics Laboratory in particular has an extensive DNA library of wild North American wolves, captive domestic wolves, and wolf-dog hybrids for comparison,” said Carolyn Sime, FWP’s wolf program coordinator. “They have run over a thousand samples and maintain the most extensive reference collection anywhere so we have confidence in their results.”

    Montana law requires that any captive, domestic, or hybrid wolf that is more than half wolf to be permanently tattooed and registered with FWP. State law also requires that any escape, release, transfer, or other change in disposition of such animals be reported to FWP. Financial liability for property damage caused by these animals is the responsibility of the owner.

    Sime said no one knows where the animal came from, how it arrived in eastern Montana, or when it arrived. “There were no permanent markings or tattoos on this animal, which are required by law.”

    Anyone with information on this domestic wolf is urged to call Montana’s violation hotline at 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668). ”

    Not much clearer!


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Ralph Maughan