Conservation status

As humans co-opt the resources of the planet, the capacity of any carnivore to survive depends on its ability either to coexist with humans or to live where humans cannot or have not introduced settled agriculture. Every species of canid has interactions with humans and often their domestic dogs. Several adaptable species, notably the red fox, the gray fox, the coyote, and the Asiatic golden jackals, have found the modification of the environment by humans to their liking and are flourishing. Most other species are less fortunate.

Only one species of canid has gone extinct in recent times. The last Falkland Island wolf (Dusicyon australis) was seen in 1875. These large, coyote-like animals were common on the Malvinas, which lie 250 mi (400 km) off the coast of Argentina. It is not clear whether they were domestic dogs that went wild or an indigenous species that crossed from the mainland when sea levels were very low. Their tameness and habit of greeting humans when they arrived suggests the former. However, their friendly traits made them very easy to kill when Scottish sheep farmers arrived in the mid-nineteenth century. Although only one full species of canid has disappeared, several races or distinguishable subspecies have been lost. Several types of wolves that occupied the American west and Europe have vanished, as have races of the African wild dog that used to live in south and west Africa. In general the large pack hunters have been excluded from areas of settled agriculture and now survive only in wilderness. The wolf in Europe has sions about their rarity. Several of these species, such as the fennec (V zerda) from the Sahara are living in areas where human impact is still minor.

A coyote (Canis latrans) with a ring-necked pheasant. (Photo by Erwin and Peggy Bauer. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

been able to survive in quite small areas of uncultivated land and in frequent contact with humans. The problems of the African wild dog, the wolf of that continent, are more severe. The world population may be as low as 5,000. Perversely it does not necessarily flourish in the rich game reserves as it is competitively inferior to lions and spotted hyenas, and loses its kills to the larger predators. Its ability to travel very large distances and live on low densities of prey may allow it to survive in the large tracts of semi-arid land in the north and east of the continent. The fate of the dhole, the pack hunter of east Asia, is largely unknown but it has certainly suffered a huge contraction of its range.

Among the intermediate and smaller species, the forms that are most endangered have restricted ranges. The Ethiopian wolf, with about 500 survivors, is the most vulnerable species. This animal lives only on rodents above 9,840 ft (3,000 m) on Ethiopian mountains. Its range has been shrinking since the earth started to warm up at the end of the last Ice Age and it is now reduced to seven small populations largely isolated from one another on the tops of different massifs. Islands restrict the range and hence population size of two other endangered species. The island fox (Urocyon littoralis, related to the gray fox) exists only on an archipelago off the coast of southern California, and Darwin's fox (Pseudalopex fulvipes) lives almost exclusively on Chiloe Island off the coast of Peru.

The red wolf of the southeast United States is a small canid and the last known free-living sightings were made in restricted habitat of coastal marsh, although there are historic records from a range of wooded environments. Most of the surviving animals were brought into captivity, and genetic analysis has shown that all contain a mixture of gray wolf and coyote genes. This hybrid form represents a unique canid and has been treated as a self-standing endangered species. Even after some successful reintroductions, its numbers remain critically low. Programs for reintroducing and translocating gray wolves are currently ongoing in North America. In a recent review of canid conservation, 9 species or a quarter of the family had too little known about them to draw any conclu-

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