Population structure and gene flow in a newly harvested gray wolf (Canis lupus) population

Jessica A. Rick, Ron Moen, John D. Erb, Jared L Strasburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The genetic effects of harvest may be especially important in species that form social groups, such as gray wolves (Canis lupus). Though much research exists on the ecology and population dynamics of gray wolves, little research has focused on how anthropogenic harvest relates to the genetics of wolf populations. To analyze the short-term genetic consequences of the first two years of public wolf harvest in Minnesota following delisting under the Endangered Species Act, we genotyped harvested individuals at 18 microsatellite loci and quantified changes in population genetic structure and diversity in the first post-harvest year. If the harvest rate was high enough to create detectable genetic changes, population structure and differentiation between clusters could both increase because of decreased natal dispersal and increased disperser mortality, or they could decrease because of increased immigration from outside the population. In the Minnesota population, heterozygosity and allelic richness were not significantly different between years. However, population genetic structure increased and effective migration decreased among the sampled wolves. While the role of anthropogenic harvest in these changes cannot be distinguished from other confounding factors, this analysis suggests that harvest has a non-negligible effect and indicates the need for continued study to determine whether harvest-induced changes in genetic structure affect the evolutionary trajectory of harvested populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1091-1104
Number of pages14
JournalConservation Genetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Canis lupus
  • Dispersal
  • Gene flow
  • Hunting
  • Population genetics


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