DNA testing confirms second wolf on island of Newfoundland

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Joe Fleming was astonished when he saw what he thought might be a huge coyote tracks on the Bonavista Peninsula in early March. After he tracked and killed the animal, tests eventually proved it was a Labrador wolf. Further tests on a similar animal killed on the Baie Verte Peninsula in 2009 have now confirmed that animal as a Labrador wolf also.— Submitted photo

An animal killed by a Baie Verte Peninsula resident in 2009 has been confirmed as a wolf, following extensive genetic testing by both Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Idaho, the provincial government announced today.

“After an 82-pound animal harvested in March 2012 by a resident of the Bonavista Peninsula was confirmed as a Labrador wolf, the department reviewed earlier work and re-tested any samples with DNA consistent with domestic dog or wolf,” said Terry French, Minister of Environment and Conservation, in a news release.

“In the past, samples had been determined to be more similar to coyote or domestic dog than to wolf. At the time this work was conducted, however, the laboratory doing the analysis did not have any samples from Labrador wolf to compare.”

 Of the retested samples, using the improved database for comparison, laboratories at Memorial University and the University of Idaho confirmed that a sample from a large coyote-like animal trapped on the Baie Verte Peninsula in 2009 was, in fact, a wolf.

“The DNA of the animal trapped on the Baie Verte Peninsula matches the genetics of the Labrador wolf population and is like the animal that was shot on the Bonavista peninsula,” French said. “The department will continue to collect predator samples for DNA analysis and will report any further evidence of wolves on the island of Newfoundland.”

 Joe Fleming of Spillars Cove near Bonavista, a crab fisherman and avid coyote tracker, killed an 82-pound animal in March that raised a lot of interest and debate as to whether it was a large coyote or a wolf. DNA testing results later confirmed the animal as a Labrador wolf.

Tissue samples from the 2009 Baie Verte Peninsula animal were sent to Memorial University’s CREAIT Genomics and Proteomics Facility and the University of Idaho’s Laboratory for Evolutionary, Ecological and Conservation Genetics.

The Idaho university was engaged because of ongoing student research involving genetic testing as part of the provincial caribou strategy. The samples were compared to reference samples from known wolf, coyote and domestic dog populations. Both laboratories concur that, based on the extensive genetic testing at both facilities, the animal is a Labrador wolf.

As part of ongoing wildlife research in the province, the provincial government works with hunters and trappers to collect tissue samples through the coyote carcass collection program. To date, approximately 3,000 carcasses have been collected and no wolves have been detected. Additionally, approximately 900 hair, scat and live capture samples have been tested as part of the island caribou strategy without any further evidence of wolves.

The Newfoundland wolf became extinct on the island around 1930, but the grey wolf is common in Labrador. Although wolves may occasionally arrive from Labrador, there is no evidence of a breeding population on the island portion of the province.

 

Organizations: University of Idaho, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Laboratory for Evolutionary Conservation Genetics.The Idaho university

Geographic location: Labrador, Baie Verte Peninsula, Bonavista

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  • Elizabeth Huntley
    October 30, 2013 - 20:43

    Why did that dolt feel the need to kill the animal? What a moron.

  • McCadden
    August 24, 2012 - 22:42

    Stop killing the wolves that we are fortunate enough to see reach the island from Labrador! Let them kill as many moose as they can eat! They are beautiful creatures, no threat to humans, and will reduce the damn coyote population as well. Wolves are not "garbage" from Labrador, they are a treasure. This comes from personal experience with the Labrador grey wolf while living in Labrador. Many Labrador Husky dogs have a bit of grey wolf in them. Both are majestic creatures. We need them. Put away your darn rifles. Think before you shoot your "trophy". Another thing.....if I knew this was a Labrador grey wolf as soon as I saw the picture, why did officials have to do DNA testing to determine whether it was a coyote? No coyote weighs 82 pounds. How on earth this animal's identity could confuse anyone is a mystery to me. Now, put those guns away....unless you are aiming them at the moose!

  • John Glowa
    August 23, 2012 - 15:10

    To the government's credit they are making this information public. At first there were no wolves, Now there is "no evidence of a breeding population." This makes the third wolf in the past three years, with one of the three hopefully still alive in or near Terra Nova National Park. The only way to verify a breeding population is to look for wolves and that involves setting out trail cameras, surveying for wolf tracks and howls, and other fieldwork. Now that wolves have been documented, the government should not expect hunters and trappers to report one if it is killed. It is a no-brainer that Labrador wolves DNA should have been used as reference samples given the fact that Labrador's wolf range is only ten miles away from Newfoundland. The presence of wolves in Newfoundland rights a wrong that humans committed a century ago and restores a natural predator. Humans should allow nature to take its course. If wolves do not survive in Newfoundland, it should not be because they have again been exterminated by humans. I'm betting that if left alone, wolves will thrive and that they will improve the health of moose and caribou populations. They will decrease coyote numbers and in so doing, may prompt increased survival of caribou calves, just as wolves are doing for pronghorn antelope in the American west. They will likely decrease moose numbers and this may mean less car/moose collisions. They will serve as a draw for ecotourists wanting to see and hear them and will bring dollars into rural parts of Newfoundland.

  • Blame Labradorians
    August 23, 2012 - 10:39

    Darn Labrador, sending their garbage this way.

    • sickof thispicture
      August 23, 2012 - 11:40

      Ok, so now that you are sure??? that this animal is in fact, a wolf that travelled here from Labrador, as the island species were made extinct in the 1930's, can you pleeeease not show this picture again?