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Packs of Wolf-Dog Hybrids Threaten Europe's Wolves

posted Jun 30, 2019, 7:53 PM by chloe owens

5/23/2019, by University o fExeter, Phys.Org

Packs of wolf-dog hybrids threaten europe’s wolves

"Swarms" of wolf-dog crossbreeds could drive Europe's wolves out of existence, according to the lead author of new research. Such hybridization—driven by human activities that destroy habitats and mean wolves encounter more and more free-roaming dogs—threatens the "genetic identity" of wolves. The study compares the views of more than 40 scientists and warns that a lack of engagement and agreement could hamper efforts to tackle wolf-dog hybridization. The findings suggest most scientists agree on the nature of the problem, but are divided on how to deal with it. "We need to address this issue before wolf-dog hybrids backcross with wolves to the extent that wolf populations will be lost to hybrid swarms, and the conservation of wild populations will become unfeasible," said lead author Valerio Donfrancesco, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall…scientists were divided on issues such as how to remove hybrids and free-roaming dogs, and whether they should be kept captive, sterilized and released or killed. Donfrancesco said: "The disagreements emerged from diverging ethical values between scientists of different backgrounds, such as ecologists and geneticists, from the lack of data on the effectiveness of different interventions, and from the worry of some scientists that on practical grounds allowing the removal of hybrids would open a legal loophole for the killing of wolves."