DNA INDICATES LONG-AGO SOUTHLAND WOLF WAS ACTUALLY A MEXICAN GRAY
The only wolf ever documented in Southern California may
have been a victim of mistaken identity nearly a century ago.
The 100-pound male wolf was pursuing a bighorn sheep in the
Mojave Desert’s rugged Providence Mountains in 1922 when a steel-jaw trap
clamped onto one of its legs.
Based on measurements of its skull, biologists at the time
determined that it was a lone Southern Rocky Mountain gray wolf that had
wandered out of a population in southern Nevada.
But a different story is emerging from a study of that skull
at UCLA, where researchers have identified DNA markers indicating it was
actually a Mexican gray wolf, the “lobo” of Southwestern lore.
Bob Wayne, an evolutionary biologist at the university, said
the finding could help extend the historic range of the federally endangered
Mexican gray wolf, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contends ranged
over parts of central and northern Mexico, western Texas, southern New Mexico
and southeastern and central Arizona.
”Broadening the species’ historical range to include
Southern California would allow for an assessment of additional habitats for
Mexican wolf reintroduction programs,” Wayne said. That, in turn, could
enhance its chances of survival.»