- A letter to a California reader that posed two questions. –
You have asked two questions about wolves. The following is a quick attempt to provide you with a semblance of an answer to your two questions.
Question: 1) the wolves that "used" to be here in California, for example, and the ones being introduced from Canada. I hear so often there is no difference ... a wolf is a wolf is a wolf.
Answer: The question, “when is a wolf a wolf”, has beguiled geneticists, biologists, and laymen for centuries. I will try to answer this in an understandable fashion although it is the perfectly contradictory “science” for every charlatan, radical, bureaucrat, and other ne’er-do-well conniving in Western Society to bamboozle you with as I write.
The scientific name for all wolves is Canis lupus.
Canis is a Genus in the family Canidae that is in the Order Carnivora.
Canis is the Genus name for a group of eight “species.” NOTE the quotations around “species”. I have done this because you must realize that the classic and historic definition of a “species” is a group of animals that breed and create fertile offspring that share the physical and behavioral characteristics of each parent. In the case of Canis lupus (the wolf) all of the members of the Genus Canis can and do breed with each other and create fertile offspring that share the characteristics of each parent! The eight “species” in the Genus Canis are - C. lupus (wolf), - (plus C. rufus the “red” wolf mentioned in some classifications) - C. familiaris (dog), C. latrans (coyote), C.dingo (dingoes), C. aureus (golden jackals), C. mesomelas/adustras (two other jackals). Yes, all eight can and do interbreed with resulting offspring capable of and ready at the drop of a hat to interbreed with other members of the “Genus” to further complicate the classification and nomenclature identifying the resulting offspring. Thus we have the question is the “wolf” the government dumped into the SE US that geneticists tell us is made up of significant coyote and dog DNA, A WOLF (or a coyote or a dog or a mongrel)? The geneticist (if honest) says one thing and the radical/bureaucrat/law enforcer/judge activist says another and the layman be he farmer, rancher, hunter, or mother with kids is left to scratch their heads and ask what does all this mean? But, I digress.
Canis lupus was the scientific name awarded wolves in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus the world famous Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician known for his classification system and nomenclature of plants and animals. He is known as the “father of ecology” and the “father of modern taxonomy”. He and his work were invaluable for the study of plants and animals. However, he and his work were controversial, just as today, because of the religious and social questions they raised and tried to answer. According to the New World Encyclopedia:
“Linnaeus's classification of humans as primates, and identification of their species name as Homo sapiens (wise man), rather than another epithet, guided science in a path deviating from one integrated with a more religious view. Linnaeus himself noted that he could not find a generic difference between humans and primates in accordance with natural history. Linnaeus's division of humans according to race, including based on perceived social and emotional attributes, would also have cultural implications.”
Per Linnaeus – “[Canis] lupus Linne, Syst. Nat. (10th ed.): 39, 1758. Type from Sweden.” described The Wolf in scientific nomenclature terms.
I now switch to what I believe to be the definitive work on Wolves in North America. It is titled Wolves of North America and was authored by Stanley P. Young and Edward A. Goldman in 1944 in Washington, DC (a date, location and agency that was far more reliable and truthful than what we have today!)
Stanley P. Young, the lead author was at the time the Chief of the Predator and Rodent Control Branch of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He began his government career as a trapper and animal control agent throughout the West and in Alaska before the First World War. He knew wolves and coyotes and their traits and damage and their life histories as much as any man at that time and far more than anyone can or does today. He had no axe to grind and his work was aimed at making the USA the best country on earth with (just as Teddy Roosevelt and other early conservationists like Gifford Pinchot and Aldo Leopold et al) an eye to allowing destructive animals to exist in reduced numbers and only in locations where they were not dangerous to or destructive of human society and welfare such as the settled landscapes of The Lower 48 States.
Edward Alphonso Goldman was born in Mount Carmel, Illinois, on July 7, 1873. His family moved to a ranch in the San Joaquin Valley near Alila, Tulare County, California.
He began collecting for the Biological Survey in 1891, and in January of the next year he traveled to Mexico as an assistant of E. W. Nelson. He and Nelson traveled to all of the states of Mexico and Guatemala over 14 years to collect birds, mammals, and reptiles. In 1910, he went farther south and surveyed the canal area of Panama, while the canal was being constructed. In 1918, he served in the Sanitary Corps of the Army during World War I in France, trying to prevent the destruction of food and other supplies by rats.
When he returned to Washington he remained associated with the Biological Survey and was in charge of biological investigations from 1919 to 1925, as well as chief of the division of game reservations from 1925 to 1928. He became a senior biologist in the Division of Wilderness Research, working there until 1940. In 1944, he was named honorary associate in zoology at the Smithsonian Institution, and officially retired. At the end of his life he was writing about his experiences with Nelson in Mexico.
I will quote from Wolves of North America to answer your next question:
Question: 2) the size of the wolves now compared to the 1920s/30s (the last time a wolf was reported in CA) ... I'm now hearing wolves in CA were bigger than Canadian grays (although the same genetics, etc.) due to the excess of food in CA.
Answer: Young & Goldman have the following to say about the range or occurrence of Canis lupus, the wolf on page 413 of Wolves of North America:
Distribution. – The original range of C. lupus was circumpolar in the Arctic land areas. From the Far North it extended south in the Old World, including Ireland and the British Isles in the West and Japan in the East to southern Eurasia; in America it ranged from Cape Morris Jessup, Greenland the most northern point of land in the world, 380 miles from the Pole, to the Valley of Mexico at the southern end of the high interior plateau of Mexico. Outlying islands included are Vancouver near the west coast and Newfoundland off the Atlantic coast. Throughout most of the vast general range of the species in America, wolves were formerly well distributed, but were absent (NOTE: my emphasis) in the extremely arid desert sections of the Far West and Southwest, particularly in central Washington, central Oregon, much of Nevada, the Great Salt Lake Basin in Utah, Southwestern Arizona, most of California (NOTE: my emphasis), Baja California, and western Sonora. They were absent also west of the Sierra Nevada in California where conditions were apparently favorable, (NOTE: again my emphasis) and did not enter the tropical parts of Mexico.”
Young and Goldman go on to identify 23 “subspecies” of Canis lupus and their distribution on a map of North America from the N tip of Greenland to the S end of that Mexican Plateau where wolves gave way to jaguars, ocelots, margays, Mayans and human sacrifice et al. They have wolf skulls and measurements, and all sorts of physiology observations along with photographs and quotes from ranchers, farmers, cowboys and people that witnessed attacks from forts with armed soldiers to men in desolate places where they were left to die alone from rabies.
Make what you will from these “subspecies”. Considering that wolves mate with and have young with coyotes and dogs (and dingoes and jackals when, if ever, available) making puppies that receive and likewise pass on, the characteristics of their parents with similar disregard for the Linnean/USFWS/radicals’ belief in “pure” blood and thus “Canis” in all its’ glorious 8 “species” can arguably be termed a “species”: the notion of 23 wolf “subspecies” in North America alone (forgetting for a moment the Asian continent and Europe full of wolves plus islands like Japan) and the subject of wolf “subspecies” seems to me akin to discussing how many angels “live” on the head of a pin.
As to size, mammals with broad N to S distributions all tend to get larger the farther North they exist up to the Arctic Circle where they tend to get smaller. This has to do with natural selection and the effects of cold v. warm climates on large and small bodies as well as the availability of food and the nutrition value of that food. Thus we have whitetail deer varying from tiny Key Deer in S Florida to ”monster” whitetails in Saskatchewan where lots of nutritious food is available and the winters are cold to say the least.
But consider the modern mythical/political wolf that is the weapon of choice for all the radicals and bureaucrats that covet Rural America for themselves and no one else. Per their “sacred” teachings, the “sacred” “red” wolf (actually a dog/coyote/wolf mongrel) is the ONLY wolf that “Belongs” In the SE USA. The “sacred” “mexican” (no caps on purpose) is the ONLY wolf that “Belongs” in the SW USA. Yet federal bureaucrats steal $45 to 60 Million from state wildlife budgets to secretly go into N Canada (where wolves are larger and have little experience with 24/7 people in settled landscapes like the Lower 48 States and from where they have evolved killing whatever they see that is unarmed) and then transport them into the USA without complying with the law that requires disclosure of where they were captured and then release them in Yellowstone. So, let me get this straight, as these Far North (?) wolves spread into Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and now California (over at least 5 of Young and Goldman’s subspecies’ Ranges on that 23 subspecies map) and you are forced by your fellow California radicals and your disgraceful (I use the next term reluctantly) state “wildlife” (it should be Humane Society) agency to ask me to explain where wolves exists and if these are the “real” wolves so romantically yearned for by the “native ecosystem” crowd. The entire current wolf matter is (for lack of a more descriptive word as I might have uttered aboard ship) BLARNEY!
Further consideration as to the “sacred” topic of the “Range” of wolves and other critters before the arrival of Europeans “destroyed” the “native” (?) ecosystem (as if those Asians now called “Native Americans”, formerly Indians by geography-deprived Europeans, were somehow not controlling their environment as best they could for their own welfare) is in order. The settled landscapes of The Lower 48 States of the USA no more resemble 1492 AD than Tunis resembles Carthage. Were those Canids so feared in diaries of New England Colonists wolves or large coyotes? They were often loners and very fierce. Are those old deserts wolves avoided that are now irrigated and replete with dogs and formerly rare game animals now suitable for wolves? Will wolf numbers and distributions be similar and “crash” today when moose, deer and elk become rare due to predation when there are plenty of cows, calves sheep, lambs, dogs, garbage and trash, kids and unarmed elderly folks available as wolf food to fall back on to feed pups or get through the winter? Inquiring minds want to know because even if all the “native ecosystem” tripe were true, applying it now is like imposing the village or cave chieftain form of government on the US as many of the wolf advocates want to do with themselves as “Chief”.
Anyway, you asked me for the time and I have endeavored to tell you how to make a watch. Like one of the current erstwhile Presidential candidates, I apologize for any confusion I may have caused you.
I hope this helps.
If you found this worthwhile, please share it with others. Thanks.
Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC. He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC. He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority. He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.
Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting. You can receive future articles by sending a request with your e-mail address to: firstname.lastname@example.org