Canids Specialist Group

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ResourcesInbreeding, variation at immune genes, and disease susceptibility in endangered red wolves


Reintroduced wild red wolves are highly inbred and have low genetic variation at immune genes, which may reduce their ability to cope with pathogens. As such, evaluating disease prevalence and susceptibility is an important component to red wolf conservation and management. Researchers at Louisiana State University, in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, are assessing disease prevalence in wild red wolves and sympatric coyotes to determine if inbreeding or reduced variation at genes important for immune response influence pathogen susceptibility. Researchers will measure and compare helminth infections, tick borne diseases, several viral pathogens, and ectoparasite loads for red wolves and coyotes in the Red Wolf Recovery area in northeastern North Carolina. They will then evaluate if inbreeding or genetic variation at immune genes influence pathogen prevalence. Data from this project will generate baseline information regarding red wolf and coyote disease rates and identify potential disease threats, an important step towards ensuring red wolf persistence.