Conservation Genetics

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 1091–1104 | Cite as

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

  • Jessica A. RickEmail author
  • Ron A. Moen
  • John D. Erb
  • Jared L. Strasburg
Research Article


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.


Canis lupus Population genetics Hunting Dispersal Gene flow 



The authors would like to thank the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for providing the samples used in this study. We would also like to thank D. Petkova and J. Novembre for discussing the use and interpretation of EEMS. Earlier versions of this manuscript were greatly improved by comments from B. Gross, J. Pastor, C. Wagner, and J. Alston. RAM was partially supported by funding from the Minnesota State Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund. JLS and JAR were supported by funding from the University of Minnesota- Duluth.

Supplementary material

10592_2017_961_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2368 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica A. Rick
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Ron A. Moen
    • 2
    • 4
  • John D. Erb
    • 5
  • Jared L. Strasburg
    • 2
  1. 1.Integrated Biosciences ProgramUniversity of MinnesotaDuluthUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of Minnesota- DuluthDuluthUSA
  3. 3.Department of Botany and Program in EcologyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  4. 4.Natural Resources Research InstituteDuluthUSA
  5. 5.Minnesota Department of Natural ResourcesGrand RapidsUSA

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