The only remaining wild Canis rufus (Red Wolf) are part of an experimental population inhabiting the Albemarle peninsula of northeastern North Carolina. This population was established in the late 1980s as part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Red Wolf Recovery Program. Recently, controversy has arisen over whether to maintain, expand, or end the recovery program. This controversy is complex, but one source of concern about the program is the perception among some local stakeholders that, compared to the smaller, sympatric C. latrans (Coyote), Red Wolves put greater pressure on game species, such as Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer). However, previous research comparing fecal remains indicated a broad dietary overlap between sympatric populations of the 2 species. In this study, we investigated the question of dietary overlap between Red Wolves and Coyotes using stable isotope analysis. Our results are consistent with those based on fecal analyses in showing that sympatric populations of Red Wolves and Coyotes have similar diets. This finding has important conservation and management implications for Red Wolves because it suggests that: (1) this species does not prey upon game species, such as White-tailed Deer, to any greater degree than sympatric Coyotes; and (2) whereas the loss of the only wild population of Red Wolves would result in a reduction of phylogenetic diversity in northeastern North Carolina, it may not result in a loss of functional diversity if Coyotes or Coyote—Red Wolf hybrids are able to play a similar ecological role to that of Red Wolves.
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Vol. 16 • No. 2