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Wolves of the Northeast Caught Up in the Name Game

The Mexican gray wolf is one of the five subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) recognized in North America

There are three species of wolves in the world: the gray wolf (Canis lupus), the red wolf (Canis rufus), and the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) sometimes referred to as the Abyssinian wolf. Scientists debate whether the Ethiopian wolf is a true wolf or a member of the jackal family (Canis aureus). It’s not uncommon for debate to surround the classification or status of a species, in fact several scientists argue about the designation of wolves here in North America. For years, most scientists have recognized that there are five subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus)in North America.

Canis lupus baileyi – the Mexican wolf or lobo.

Canis lupus nubilus – the Great Plains or buffalo wolf.

Canis lupus occidentalis – the Canadian or Rocky Mountain wolf.

Canis lupus arctos – the arctic wolf

Canis lupus lycaon – the eastern or Algonquin wolf.

Some researchers, however, have presented clues that Canis lupus lycaon, the eastern timber wolf, may be a distinct species, Canis lycaon, and with growing evidence suggesting that gray wolves are attempting to naturally re-colonize the Northeastern U.S. from neighboring populations in Canada, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking information for a status review for this newly-recognized species. If Canis lycaon is accepted as a distinct species, what will it’s status be under the Endangered Species Act? For this status review to be complete and based on the best available scientific and commercial information, USFWS is seeking input from governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties prior to a June 8th hearing in Augusta, ME.

Regardless of what we name the wolves of the northeast, management plans need to be established to ensure that this mysterious predator receives the protection that its future depends upon. Please visit the Maine Wolf Coalition, Coalition for the Eastern Wolf (Crew), and WolfWatcher’s facebook page for additional resources.