Date of this Version
Ecology, 95(2), 2014, pp. 254-264
It is widely recognized that protected areas can strongly influence ecological systems and that hybridization is an important conservation issue. However, previous studies have not explicitly considered the influence of protected areas on hybridization dynamics. Eastern wolves are a species of special concern and their distribution is largely restricted to a protected population in Algonquin Provincial Park (APP), Ontario, Canada, where they are the numerically dominant canid. We studied intrinsic and extrinsic factors influencing survival and cause-specific mortality of hybrid and parental canids in the three-species hybrid zone between eastern wolves, eastern coyotes, and gray wolves in and adjacent to APP. Mortality risk for eastern wolves in areas adjacent to APP was significantly higher than for other sympatric Canis types outside of APP, and for eastern wolves and other canids within APP. Outside of APP, the annual mortality rate of all canids by harvest (24%) was higher than for other causes of death (4–7%). Furthermore, eastern wolves (hazard ratio ¼ 3.5) and nonresidents (transients and dispersing animals, hazard ratio ¼ 2.7) were more likely to die from harvest relative to other Canis types and residents, respectively. Thus, eastern wolves dispersing from APP were especially vulnerable to harvest mortality. For residents, eastern wolf survival was more negatively influenced by increased road density than for other Canis types, further highlighting the sensitivity of eastern wolves to human disturbance. A cycle of dispersal from APP followed by high rates of mortality and hybridization appears to maintain eastern wolves at low density adjacent to APP, limiting the potential for expansion beyond the protected area. However, high survival and numerical dominance of eastern wolves within APP suggest that protected areas can allow rare hybridizing species to persist even if their demographic performance is compromised and barriers to hybridization are largely absent in the adjacent matrix.