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Data from: Patchy distribution and low effective population size raise concern for an at-risk top predator

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Rutledge, Linda Y. et al. (2017). Data from: Patchy distribution and low effective population size raise concern for an at-risk top predator [Dataset]. Dryad.


Aim: Understanding carnivore distribution is important for management decisions that aim to restore naturally-regulated ecosystems and preserve biodiversity. Eastern Wolves, a species at risk in Canada, are centralized in Algonquin Provincial Park and their ability to disperse and establish themselves elsewhere is limited by human-caused mortality associated with hunting, trapping, and vehicle collisions. Here, we refine our understanding of Eastern Wolf distribution and provide the first estimates of their effective population size. Location: Southern Ontario and Gatineau Quebec. Methods: We used noninvasive samples, as well as blood samples archived from other research projects, collected between 2010 – 2014 to generate autosomal microsatellite genotypes at 12 loci for 98 Canis individuals. We utilized Bayesian and multivariate clustering analyses to identify Eastern Wolves in regions that were previously unsampled. Both linkage disequilibrium and temporal approaches were used to estimate effective population size of Eastern Wolves. Results: Assignment tests identified 34 individuals as Eastern Wolves, primarily in or near two provincial parks: Killarney and Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands. Eastern Coyotes were identified in Bon Echo Provincial Park, Frontenac Provincial Park, and Gatineau Park, whereas many of the samples were admixed among the different Canis types. Effective population size (Ne) estimates ranged from 24.3 – 122.1 with a harmonic mean of 45.6. Main Conclusions: The identification of Eastern Wolves in the regions of Killarney and Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Parks extends the range of Eastern Wolves north of the French River and southward into previously unidentified regions. The effective population size is low and raises concerns for long-term persistence of this threatened carnivore; values are dangerously close to critical values recommended for short-term persistence. These results provide important information for upcoming Eastern Wolf recovery plans associated with federal and provincial endangered species legislation.

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