Florida Black WolfHi There! Thanks for popping in to learn more about the Florida Black Wolf! Here are some of the questions that I will be answering about this awesome animal.
- What is the Florida Black Wolf? Is it a unique species of Wolf? A subspecies of the Grey Wolf? Or is it a Coyote?
- Why did it go extinct?
- Can wolves be reintroduced to the Southeast?
There has been much debate among biologists on the taxonomy of the Florida Black Wolf but one thing is for sure... it existed, and lived throughout the lower southeast of the United States until 1908, which is when it was declared extinct.
Recounts of this animal are few, but the handful that still exists today point to a small framed, light-footed Wolf with large ears and a jet black coat, save for a patch or two of white on their chest and muzzle. They hunted in small packs like their northern cousins and typically were found in Pine Forests and prairie habitats, most likely hunting deer, and small game.
John James Audubon was one of the two most credible resources that secure the existence of this species. During his trek through southern states in the 1840s, he painted a watercolor piece of a Florida Black Wolf galloping across a prairie hunting Bison (and yes, Bison lived in Florida way back when!). Along with the Florida Black Wolf, a Red Wolf was also discovered on this trip, which started the debate on whether the Black Wolf was a separate species from the Red Wolf or the same with a color variation.
Canis Lupus (American black wolf) - Photograph - Unknown
In 1957, it was discovered by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (A ridiculously long name meaning a group of people who name species) that the Florida black wolf, along with the red wolf and Gregory's wolf was actually not related to any known species or at least the relation could not be proven. This invalidated all previous proclamations of the Florida Black Wolf being a species of Coyote or a subspecies of Red Wolf.
The disappearance of the Florida Black Wolf is no surprise when you look at the perceptions people viewed wolves with. They were seen as dangerous animals who would hunt livestock, compete with settlers for wild game, and would attack the unsuspecting traveler. Sadly, what people of the time didn’t see was the curious personality, courageous spirit, and family oriented unit wolves represented.
They evolved over thousands of years to be the perfect predator and were persecuted for what came naturally. In the end, they were outcompeted by humans. People used more resources, leveled forests for growth and cattle, hunted game to feed growing populations, and actively hunted all predators, the Florida Black Wolf included alongside the Florida Panther and Florida Black Bear.
Thanks to the ESA (Endangered Species Act) Today, we still have a small population of panthers in the southern half of Florida (which still struggle daily for more space to support a growing population) and a growing bear population throughout the state. However, this act came too late for both the Red Wolf and Black Wolf in Florida. There are no longer any wild wolves in Florida but there is a program to start introducing the remaining hybrids of the old Red Wolf populations. This in itself is steeped in controversy because of their known mixed genetics with Coyotes.
For the Red Wolf, maybe one day it will step foot in the pine forests of Florida again, but our Black Wolf is gone forever. Instead of mourning this animal though, we should see this as an opportunity to educate. Why are wolves important to an ecosystem? Why do they need to exist? And how would Florida benefit from the reintroduction of wolves as well as the connection of a Florida corridor throughout the state that would allow for panther populations to expand? How can ecotourism become Florida's largest economy?
There is much to cover, but if we, the people of this beautiful state, can forge a connection with our wild selves and understand why we need these apex predators in the wilds of Florida, then maybe one day we will deserve to hear the howls of wolves in the summer night.
What do you think?
- Should wolves be reintroduced back into Florida?
- How do you think wolves would affect the economy? (positive/negative)
- Would there be negative impacts on people?
These are all relevant questions that we need to ask ourselves if we want to live a balanced life with nature, so your opinion is much appreciated! Thank you for reading, Sending much love your way!