Date of this Version
Conserv Genet (2015) 16:635–647
Translocations are an effectual management strategy for the reestablishment and reconnection of endangered populations and species. However, knowledge about the evolution and ecology of the populations and species of interest are critical so that informed decisions can be made about source populations and reestablishment areas. We employed 614 base pairs of the mitochondrial control region and 15 microsatellite loci to investigate genetic variation, contemporary connectivity, and interspecific hybridization in the two remaining populations of the endangered Columbian white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus leucurus) through comparisons with the closest subspecies, O. v. ochrourus. Our data revealed the dubious taxonomic status of O. v. leucurus, and that O. virginianus in the Pacific Northwest originated from a single historic gene pool. Further the results identified that populations are currently genetically isolated and depauperate, and uncovered historic introgression with O. hemionus columbianus. These results suggest that translocations are a viable approach for reestablishing populations throughout the historic range to increase genetic diversity in the fragmented populations. Despite the taxonomic ambiguity, our study revealed the presence of unique genetic variation within each population which supports ongoing conservation efforts.