Using faecal DNA sampling and GIS to monitor hybridization between red wolves (Canis rufus) and coyotes (Canis latrans)

Mol Ecol. 2003 Aug;12(8):2175-86. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-294x.2003.01895.x.


The US Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Red Wolf Recovery Program recognizes hybridization with coyotes as the primary threat to red wolf recovery. Efforts to curb or stop hybridization are hampered in two ways. First, hybrid individuals are difficult to identify based solely on morphology. Second, managers need to effectively search 6000 km(2) for the presence of coyotes and hybrids. We develop a noninvasive method to screen large geographical areas for coyotes and hybrids with maternal coyote ancestry by combining mitochondrial DNA sequence analysis of faeces (scat) and geographic information system (GIS) technology. This method was implemented on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (1000 km(2)) in northeastern North Carolina. A total of 956 scats were collected in the spring of 2000 and 2001 and global positioning system (GPS) coordinates were recorded. Seventy-five percent of the scats were assigned to species and five coyote/hybrid scats were detected. Placement of scat location coordinates on a map of the experimental population area revealed that four of the coyote/hybrid scats were detected within the home ranges of sterilized hybrids. The other coyote/hybrid scat indicated the presence of a previously unknown individual. We suggest this method be expanded to include more of the experimental population area and be optimized for use with nuclear markers to improve detection of hybrid and back-crossed individuals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carnivora / genetics*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / chemistry
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Feces / chemistry*
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Haplotypes
  • Hybridization, Genetic / genetics*
  • North Carolina
  • Phylogeny*
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Mitochondrial