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Eastern Wolves and Coyotes Play Different Ecological Roles

Don’t worry if you missed the WCC’s informative webinar with wildlife research biologist John F. Benson on Wednesday night, now you can watch anytime!

Tune in to learn about Benson’s intensive field study on the hybridization dynamics between eastern wolves and coyotes in Ontario and discover how his findings help resolve long-standing questions about their ecological roles.

Understanding the ecological roles of species that influence ecosystem processes is a central goal of ecology and conservation biology.
Ontario is one of only a few areas where wolves, coyotes, and their hybrids live side-by-side while exhibiting territoriality with one another.

In a recent study published in Ecological Applications, wildlife research biologist John Benson, an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, looks at the hybridization dynamics between eastern wolves (Canis lycaon), coyotes (C. latrans), the ecology of both species, and their predator-prey dynamics.

What Benson found was while eastern coyote populations are abundant in Ontario, they fill a different ecological niche than eastern wolves. Overall, Benson concluded that wolves require large prey to survive while coyotes kill large prey on occasion but don’t depend on it as consistently for their main food source.

Benson’s findings help resolve long-standing questions about the unique ecological roles the different canid species play and serve as a reminder that that one should not assume that smaller predators perform the same ecological functions as their larger counterparts.

Learn more by watching the Wolf Conservation Center’s webinar (above) with Benson recorded on September 5, 2018.


John Benson is an assistant professor of vertebrate ecology at the University of Nebraska. He is currently working on a number of collaborative research projects around North America on wolves, caribou, mountain lions, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and white sharks. He previously modeled population viability of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains as part of a collaborative study with the National Park Service and UCLA. John earned his Ph.D. studying hybridization dynamics between wolves and coyotes in central Ontario. Before beginning his PhD, he studied the highly endangered Florida panther as a research scientist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. As a master’s student, John led field operations for a reintroduction effort with federally threatened Louisiana black bears. This involved capturing females and their newborn cubs in tree dens and releasing them in areas of suitable habitat where they had been extirpated. John did his undergraduate degree in wildlife at Humboldt State University in northern California and previously worked on studies with sea birds, red foxes, Polar bears, Canada lynx, and mountain lions before starting graduate school.


» Eastern (Algonquin) Wolf – Basic Information

» Eastern (Algonquin) Wolf Online Resources and Research

» Northeast Wolf Coalition – The Northeast Wolf Coalition was established is an alliance of conservation organizations in Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut and beyond.

» Eastern Wolf Survey – Research, outreach and education for improved wolf conservation.