FILE - In this June 13, 2017 file photo, a red wolf female peers back at her 7-week old pup in their habitat at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, N.C. A panel of top scientists has concluded that the endangered red wolf is a species unto itself. The government-funded study by the National Academy of Sciences gives the beleaguered canine a scientific and political boost at a time when its numbers have plummeted in the wild. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

Government-funded study says red wolves are distinct species

March 28, 2019 - 11:48 am

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — A panel of top scientists has concluded the endangered red wolf of the southeastern U.S. is a species unto itself.

The study by the National Academy of Sciences gives the beleaguered canine a scientific and political boost as its numbers plummet in the wild.

The panel also found the Mexican gray wolf of the U.S. southwest is a subspecies, which advocates say should support its conservation status.

The affirmation of the red wolves' genetic uniqueness comes after some North Carolina officials pushed the government to abandon recovery efforts, arguing the animal is a coyote hybrid.

An estimated 35 wild red wolves remained as of late 2018. Their range has shrunk to five North Carolina counties.

Another wolf species, Western gray wolves, is thriving in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes.

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