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Digital Subscriptions > Cottage Life > Winter 2016/17 > Neither big, nor bad

Neither big, nor bad

Eastern wolves in Ontario are threatened, but are they being protected?

Cottage Watch

A few summers ago, Linda Rutledge was packing her boat, eager to get to the simple water-access yurt that serves as her family cottage northeast of Peterborough, Ont., when a neighbour hailed her on the local dock. He smiled and handed her a dog-like skull, about the size of a young husky’s. Rutledge was impressed by the animal’s “really perfect” set of teeth. Strange as it seems, this sort of encounter isn’t unusual for Rutledge, an evolutionary biologist who studies the eastern wolf, an at-risk species in Ontario.

She initially dismissed the skull as that of an eastern coyote, a common predator that’s abundant throughout rural (and urban) Ontario. The smooth, cream-coloured skull seemed too small to be a wolf’s. But with their similar markings and size, eastern wolves are virtually indistinguishable from coyotes without genetic testing. Right there at the dock, she used a knife to scrape some dry connective tissue from the cranium into a zip-lock bag for laboratory analysis. It took lab technicians a few days to process the tissue and generate its genetic signature on a DNA sequencing machine. When all was said and done, the young animal, who appeared to have succumbed to natural causes, was an eastern wolf.

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About Cottage Life

Get outside! 50+ ways to embrace the magic of winter. Snowmobile buyer's guide. Wolves in crisis. The coolest hot tubs. 25 cottage gifts. Best cottage photos of 2016.