Episode 17

April 19, 2024


Ghost Wolves vs Margaritaville

Hosted by

International Wildlife Coexistence Network Josh Adler
Ghost Wolves vs Margaritaville
For the Wild Ones
Ghost Wolves vs Margaritaville

Apr 19 2024 | 00:47:00


Show Notes

Two wolf geneticists confront the struggle to balance economic growth with wildlife and habitat preservation in Galveston, Texas.



Dr. Bridgett vonHoldt and Dr. Kristin E. Brzeski from the Gulf Coast Canine Project


Ghost wolf photos here.



For the Wild Ones Theme Song by Priya Darshini

Let There Be Peace by Nova Beat Estate



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Episode Transcript

[00:00:06] Host: Welcome back to another episode of for the Wild Ones, brought to you by the International Wildlife Coexistence Network. I'm your host, Josh Adler. I've just returned from a trip to Texas, where I had the opportunity to watch a very special pack of wild canids living on the island of Galveston. What makes this pack so special, you ask? The attention they get is a result of the healthy dose of endangered red wolf genetics that they carry, known colloquially as ghost wolves. Since their ancestors remain a mystery, I learned that Galveston's wild canid population, which is around 60 individuals, has been studied for over a decade with the hopes of unlocking their secrets. I was surprised to discover that each pack varies significantly in their admixed traits, including their size, anatomical proportions, and their coats, which range from dark, grayish or brown and thick to light. And even one known white ghost wolf. While there's still a lot to uncover, Doctor Bridget von Holt of Princeton and Michigan Tech's Doctor Christian Brashki, co directors of the Gulf Coast Canine project. And this episode's guests are focused as much on preserving their research subjects as deepening their understanding. [00:01:39] Guest 1: Most of my world now I spend thinking about these ghost wolves. This is something we need to have. We need to have actions now. We need to keep being involved and make progress. Show the world that we're constantly learning more, doing more. Show the government, show any funders. We're constantly doing things. But it also kind of feels sometimes like an endless movement forward of when is it? There's never gonna be quite enough. We're gonna have to keep going. And I remind myself, why am I doing this? Why on Friday nights or any, or Monday night after dinner? And I'm, like, exhausted going, okay, I know why I'm doing this. I know I can do it. I just need a moment. It gets to be a lot. [00:02:20] Host: Are you able to just state why it is you're doing this? [00:02:24] Guest 1: Why we're doing. [00:02:25] Host: Yeah, why are you doing the Gulf coast canine project amid your ten other projects? I was looking through your projects. Between the two of you, there's the biodiversity initiative, Kristen, that you're part of, and then there are numerous other projects that you're both trying to keep up with. [00:02:41] Guest 1: Don't get the black bears and the black barons. [00:02:45] Guest 2: Everything. [00:02:45] Guest 1: Black bears. [00:02:46] Host: I didn't even know about that. [00:02:48] Guest 1: Making national parks in Equatorial guinea. [00:02:52] Host: Right. [00:02:53] Guest 1: He first told me about this when she started postdocing in my group years ago. I was like, oh, my goodness, that's amazing. You can help construct a national park. Amazing. Floors me to think how amazing those conversations must be. And having that engagement with the community and building infrastructure, it just blows my mind, let alone trying to save endangered species in our own country. [00:03:18] Guest 2: Yeah. And, like, it's all possible through working with really good people. Cause you can't do it all. So you have to take a step back and let someone else take the lead. Which I will say in the last maybe four years, the ghost wolves and the canine ancestry project is what is at the forefront of my passion and interest. But only because there's Bridget holding the base. Yeah. And it captures the imagination. I think we thought something was lost and only existed in this kind of really extreme situation of captive population, animals under human care, and this reintroduced North Carolina riddle population that has a lot of struggles, and it felt like this species was gone and not. And I think that kind of hope and excitement and understanding of biodiversity persisting in a way we never really thought it would persist in regions we didn't really think it would persist, for me, has just been this kind of beacon of light and this world of dark challenges associated with conservation. On top of that, the science is super cool. It just captures. It captures my imagination and it captures my heart of being able to now document what we thought was gone but was existing in plain sight. [00:04:45] Guest 1: There's a distinction between a rediscovery of something that you thought was extinct, like the ivory build with pecker, if it's still out there, it's incredibly elusive. It's really difficult to document. People argue about it, whether or not there's any hard evidence that can be trusted and replicated. But the story of maybe it's out there, whereas for us, that story is quite divergent in terms of that rediscovery. Although I have my own suspicions, we're not entirely sure that an actual red wolf is out there. What we have are bits and pieces of all of the endangered DNA that we discover through sequencing and looking at the animals that are carrying these fragments. And we're rediscovering not only that, there's red wolf DNA, which is critically endangered. It's not necessarily existing in a red wolf. Taking it one step further, we're looking at what is basically the ancestral red wolf, the thing that existed and had been declared extinct, but is not the same thing that's in the captive breeding program. So not only are we rediscovering the thing that was extinct, but it's a different form of how things are defined. We only define a red wolf based on those animals that are healthy and maintained in captive human care that all descend from 14 founders, I think. Twelve of which were actually reproductively successful in captivity, I think is the number. [00:06:22] Guest 2: Yeah. And twelve are genetically represented today. Branches were lost. [00:06:27] Guest 1: Like, that's how we define a red wolf. But there's so much more to that definition that no one has incorporated into it. And this isn't an elusive thing. We have data, we have animals that we're putting colors on and trying to piece together what that discovery really is and being able to put a name on it, because right now it's nameless. We were calling them ghost bulls because of that ghost part. In hindsight, I feel like we should call a zombie because it's a bit of red wolf that's kind of surviving outside of the body of a red wolf, but we also don't know what it's surviving in. And that ghost wolf is really capturing that it's coming back or it's always been there. And the form of it is different. And putting a label on that is the goal and how that folds into conservation. I know Kristen and I have our own ideas, but so does the government and so does every state that has a ghost wolf in it, and so do the communities that live around ghost wolves. [00:07:29] Guest 2: Yeah. And another exciting part of it is other systems are trying to do similar things of identifying this loss, extinction, and variation from museum specimens, from trying to search for an ivory builder, rediscover some species that is completely lost. We living animals that are running around with colors on them that we can watch reproduce, that we can study their ecology, to piece this picture together in this kind of holistic fashion of the gene, of the morphology, the phenotype, the behaviors on the landscape, and understand something about them that you could never have from just a genetic sequence or just a skull. And so it also is unique and I think pushing the boundaries of understanding what we can do with conservation because we have these live animals that have been there. [00:08:20] Host: Its so fascinating to me, the way you speak about your research, that youve gone through genomics into the epigenetic realm, and there its even hard to define the species or the animal itself, but it feels like these wild canids, theyre really trying to tell us a story that youre peeking around the corners of constantly, and its very ghost like this arc, this narrative, because you are being haunted by it. Youre being haunted by these kind of archaic ancestral pieces as well as the living. What lessons are you gleaning by putting these seemingly disparate pieces into a kind of puzzle that starts to form an image of behavior, ecology, relations, interactions of the ancient red wolf ancestor that was living its life on the Gulf coast. [00:09:18] Guest 2: That's an interesting thought, because I think one question is, is it one population? Are they all the same? Because Galveston island is very different in its landscape than southwest Louisiana, which is some of the areas similar to what it would have been hundreds of years ago. Not, of course, not completely right. It's impact. There's agriculture, there's roads or structures, but it is, in some ways, still a pretty natural landscape. And so even within that area, there's this huge gradient, and I don't think we yet know. We have genetic information and we have some collar information, but we're still exploring how those landscapes support different types of animals, essentially, and different parts of the ghost wolf, both genetically and behaviorally. And so I think we're psyching that because the landscapes are so variable across the region that we've been working in. And there's some really large national wildlife refugees that are also similarly still, as much as you can say, natural. Right. With saltwater encrosion and sea level rise and all the things that are happening and everything dynamic. I'm sure these animals are dynamic within that landscape, but I think in that sense, we're still piecing the puzzle together. Personally, what I've learned is the human component, how people think of these animals and interact with them, because you get the range of ideas and cultural norms associated with hunting and trapping canines and coyotes. But there's also this sort of appreciation that they're this ancestral, coastal, or components of it. There's a desire, at least among some people, they want it there. And there is a kind of citizen science citizen group that is trying to protect it. And that has been really exciting and interesting and maybe a little unexpected based on the situation in North Carolina with red wolves and other areas with coyotes, it's really feels like there's a lineage attachment to these unique animals. [00:11:36] Host: Yeah, we had such a huge response to the town hall in Galveston in January. It was really exciting to feel the feedback coming. I wasn't there like you were and Suzanne, but could feel the excitement off of it. Whereas often the oftentimes in the states, the attitude towards coyote is contentious and not even a question of coexistence type management, it's do what needs to be done with coyote, unfortunately. And then with the red wolf population, North Carolina, it's also highly contentious in many ways. Even though there's been huge conservation efforts, the local population sees them often as a threat. So strange. It's just really cool to see. Also this other stakeholder contingency that wants to reclaim this lost lineage that you've both helped to rediscover and raise up. [00:12:32] Guest 1: Some of the experiences that we've had going to Galveston has been having random people see us clearly, know that we're not from the local area, that we're tourists, and reach out and tell us in an excited way about their local coyotes and how special they are. This sort of messaging that Josh Henderson from the Galveston Island Humane Society keeps referring to them as fancy coyotes, and people pick up on that. I've worked with a lot of hunters and trappers. They have coyote research. So I often talk to people who have dead animals and really do want to, in their words, contribute towards coyote management, population control. And I was just talking to some couple hunters a few weeks ago, and the same kind of sentiment, like, oh, yeah, this is look at all the control we're doing. And Galveston is the only place that I've ever stepped into where someone has a positive attitude about their coyote population, let alone is advertising it to strangers who are from out of town telling us where we can go see these animals. That just doesn't happen. It's not happened to me in all of the years of interacting with people with regards to any sort of canine, wolf or coyote. So it's that angle that Galveston has this very unique opportunity for someone to come and see an animal that not only is just a unique thing, whether it's a coyote or a red wolf or a ghost wolf, we know it's different, and we're just trying to, as quickly and robustly as possible, find out exactly what its name is. But in the meantime, Galveston is the only place that you can go and actively see them every day, any day. Other parts of where we have documented ghost wolves, they're not visible. You have to the camp, and you can probably hear them more than you would ever see them because of this human environment. So despite Galveston being highly populated, lots of tourists, lots of people, pedestrians on the ground, these animals with their unique DNA are persisting, sometimes problematic. There's run ins with cars, and people are always alert, especially when they're out at dawn and dusk. With small dogs, like, there's lots of measures that the community knows on how to coexist. But then you go back to Louisiana, which is their ancestral habitat, without a lot of people in the landscape and without them being as technically as heavily hunted and killed as in other places, and having a large swath of protected land, whether it's a national refuge or private land or commercial and corporate land that's just maintaining the landscape as a kind of a natural landscape, because they're not looking for groomed lawns. They're doing, whether it's oil refinery or fracking or whatever they're doing. Those are two entirely different landscapes, but both will offer something really unique, yet very different for ghost wolves and for the community to be an active member in keeping those populations going. [00:15:51] Host: It's true, the mix of stakeholders in the Galveston scenario, where we have these developers who are on the ground, the crane's already in the air, there's generations of development in that ecosystem that the ghost wolves are inhabiting. But it feels like a really rare opportunity for these stakeholders, who often are in opposition to each other, to find a way to work together to preserve habitat corridors and for the local community to be engaged with educational opportunities. There's the visitor center going up. So it feels like a good kind of petri dish for how to create a model of conservation that really involves stakeholders and then helps people can be replicated elsewhere. [00:16:38] Guest 2: I was thinking like the bridget explaining southwest Louisiana, and it just made me smile. Because you drive and it's not pretty. It's all oil, right? It is like industrial oil, but in that process, because of how the pipelines work and where the wells are and stuff like that, there's huge chunks of land that aren't developed. I don't know if it would be a challenging area to develop regardless, because of the landscape and the. The climate. So now Galveston, I guess there's these, like, things that you would think normally would be competing with conservation. Right. And competing with biodiversity, supporting biodiversity that may, in some capacity, have been a part of what saved it. So I was just kind of smirking because I was thinking or describing southwest Louisiana as, like, natural and. But it was like, yeah, shoot, a bunch of oil wells, but it has done a purpose. [00:17:34] Host: It's like the Chernobyl of the States water, but it's. You don't. I grew up there in Houston, so I know this landscape quite well and I've spent a lot of time in Galveston over the years. It's incredible to see how it's changed. However, I had no idea about the level of biodiversity that's still there. It's really an incredible place still. So to imagine, if the gulf was actually restored, the water systems would be really incredible. So in thinking about this population of wild canids that were referencing as ghost wolves and red wolves and fancy coyote now were starting to understand that most of this population is way less visible than were able to monitor at this point. And so were starting to feel like maybe theres a larger population connectivity project possible across the Gulf coast. Can you speak a little bit about what's developing there? [00:18:37] Guest 1: I just immediately think about perhaps that we may not have to be doing so much in the case of this connectivity. Josh Henderson has this amazing story about a particular fancy coyote and gosh, I'd have to pull up his slide again to know how many miles. But this animal is collared and he was a little male, right? Was it male? [00:19:00] Guest 2: So it was a male? Yeah, definitely a transient, transient animal. [00:19:05] Guest 1: And being collared on the east end, Galveston City island, and moved all the way off the island, down some of the barrier islands, south several, I don't even. Was it 9100 miles away to Port O'Connor? But in that stretch, ghost wolf is not just walking in straight line. They're darting here, darting there, going onto the mainland, back to the island. Maybe he's doing a little bit of swimming because we know that they swim around in that intercoastal waterway from dry land to dry land or avoiding something or eating something. So overall, this animal, over the course of a couple hundred days had traveled like 2000 miles, pretty darn close to 2000 miles. And the mainland, exploring the mainland was also on the agenda of this animal. So connectivity in terms of where are these ghost genes and ghost wolves going? And maybe then finding a patch of land to call their own, have a mate, have some pups. That's not really difficult to imagine. The difficult part. And we find this with any canine, including gray wolves in the Rocky Mountains, that the moment a disperser is out there, very active on the landscape, a lot of times they get killed. So that's the difficulty in the population remaining connected across the Gulf coast shoreline, those states and the Gulf coast end. So we are very sure, and we've been looking at Coyote DNA from across eastern Texas and as building up our catalog of samples from Louisiana and even other neighboring states, that we're pretty sure there's going to be a much larger geographic story to this. But the concern, just like I have with every wild canid, is where is it finding the highest risk of being shot and trapped and killed or being hit by cars? Because it's just a lot of human activity. I think ultimately, I'm not entirely concerned about the connectivity because that story is kind of unfolding to show us that this isn't just the tiniest, most isolated bubble on Galveston island or in southwestern Louisiana, but the history is deeper for each of those locations. And if you can imagine the core of the headquarters, it seems to be between Galveston county up to the far, sort of southeastern side of Louisiana. That is the cradle of the oldest genetic ghost wolf profile. And those are the populations that I think are going to be the most critical in finding this DNA and the animal and the morphology and the behavior, like the whole package. That's, I think, where we're going to find the whole package. And as you move out of that area, things are just kind of trickling down. Maybe getting a little more coyote influence, getting a little more something else. [00:22:19] Guest 2: That was brilliant and a good description of what we would expect and what we know. But we're developing. We're actively developing more tools so that we can actively track it. We'll always, hopefully have collars on animals combined with getting any tissue sample, whether it's roadkill or trapping, or however we can get tissues to do more kind of these really cool genetic and genomic analyses. And then we're scaling that all down so that we can do kind of this landscape level, non invasive standpoint. But the goal is galvanize all these people that want to participate across the landscape to get unscat samples, get us fecal samples from a wild canids and hopefully wild canines, if not other things. And we're developing these tools that we can be tracking both individual id and genetic relatedness, and some measure of the ancestry, ghost ancestry and red wolf ancestry. And that I'm definitely. I'm thinking more methodologically here and not like kind of big picture ecology, but those methods, kind of pairing them all together, will help us confirm our current understanding of where the spread of ancestry has occurred and the ghost wolves movement. Already we published a really great paper that shows that the age and the spread based on tissue samples. But we can start now filling in the gaps more. Yes. [00:23:43] Guest 1: And she just. I mean, it's incorrect. I think that citizen science and community involvement. [00:23:50] Guest 2: Why is it a little slow to get going? Cause we gotta be ready to handle the onslaught of samples. [00:23:56] Guest 1: Like, what an amazing opportunity for anyone with, I mean, as an adult or with their family to say, let's just go on a hike. We know that the citizen science will have, like, a little instruction packet on what to look for. If it were me, I would love to go out and they can help us learn more about the geography of where these animals are, let alone piece together their own family trees, because that's a main purpose, is look at the relationships between the animals. Since that will really help give us a lot more information about how these ghost wolves live, where they're living, do they disperse? How far do they disperse? Are they choosing mates in a way, like very wolf like questions, which we think they're doing because they're very genetically wolf like, but yet they're labeled as a coyote by state and federal policy. [00:24:53] Host: I feel perhaps at the heart of your work is how do we delineate between a coyote and a wolf? Is it behavior? Is it genetics? It's both. But the bigger thing that's coming through to me right now is how do we even know what a species is? I've heard questioning and challenging of IUCN species listing, because if it's on the red list, it's helpful. And if it's not, then something that's endangered or threatened may be overlooked and lack protections that it really needs. Subspecies versus species. But so much of your work reveals that evolutionary history is really fluid, that we are creating these definitions where maybe to evolution it's, I don't know, just a different facet of the same. [00:25:46] Guest 1: Can I do my quick little rant about this? That's a great question, Josh. There is a very big difference between calling something a hybrid and having something that is an admixed or mixed ancestry organism. Hybrid is usually for most people who are knowledgeable about what the actual mating pedigree looks like. And we easily think about this in terms of dogs. A hybrid mating is between two distinct types in the domestic world, maybe different breeds. So a batson hound and a bloodhound, let's say, mate, and they give a litter of whatever that is, that's a first generation of that hybrid crossing. Now we can go back to red wolves. We know that in North Carolina, when there's a coyote and a red wolf, they mate. They produce a first generation hybrid litter. That litter, if those pups grow up and if they mate with a red wolf, that's a known back cross, a second generation, or if those pups grow up and mate with a coyote, that's a back cross to coyote. But very quickly, I would drop the word hybrid because we now know that there are back crosses, which is more specific. Hybrid conjures up this really weird generic and often negative idea that is usually very incorrect. So add mixed ancestry or mixed ancestry is what these animals are typically. Beyond that first generation hybrid litter, we ourselves have signatures of our evolutionarily history, genetic exchange between other hominid lineages. Most of us carry a few percent of neanderthal DNA, sometimes Denisovan. And as we explore more fossils in the human genetics realm, we might learn that there's more different ancestries that have survived in our own genome. So when we talk about these ghost wolves and that mixture of red wolf and coyote, it is not a hybrid. This is like several generations, if not hundreds of generations ago, that we see this genetic exchange and this mosaic ancestry being built into an organism. So we would not call ourselves a hybrid, even though we have different feminine genes and ancestry in our genomes. When we think about dogs and designer breeds, we often can think a doodle is maybe now its own breed, because there are definitions about when it turns from a hybrid dog into its own breed. So now we have to conjure up who is defining when a ghost wolf is its own species. Maybe it turns into a red wolf, maybe it doesnt. And those are the definitions that we struggle with. The government has their own idea. Kristen and I have our own idea. We like to use very complex aspects of an organism. I'll remind you, in the past, I forget, what year was it? 2017, maybe 2016, that the golden wolf was found, the african golden wolf. That was a very extensive study of golden jackals, because the jackal range across northern Africa, all over through Eurasia, had very differences in lifestyle and morphology and behavior and genetics. One of my close friends, Doctor Klaus Koepfli, was the lead on that study to look at and incorporate all of those dimensions of the organism and its environment and outlined that, no, this is not a golden jackal. It's actually very different from the other golden jackals. And elevating it to its own species and name this golden wolf, that was something that also happened very recently in our lives. A brand new canid species was named. So even though that might look like a precedent for it, it's also a totally different scenario of naming a species, discovering a species, and delineating it. End of my rant. [00:30:10] Guest 2: And I think that's why it's sometimes hard, because at the end of the day, federal government or the INUCN has to put a box around something to say, this is what we're protecting. But evolution doesn't follow a box. And so that it is a hard question, right? And we don't always get it right. And clearly we're making arguments for this being something that is a distinction, and maybe that is now its own box. That's what we're in the process of trying to understand. And so I wouldn't criticize IUCN or state or federal organizations, because at some point they need to make a definition of what it is that has some level of protection just because that's how our laws currently work. And there's probably a more creative and contemporary way of doing that. But I don't think endangered species act is going to be adjusted to that anytime soon. So we have to work within that constraint, too. [00:31:05] Guest 1: There's also a lot of debate and controversy around when and where are populations distinct enough to warrant their own regulation, category and identification. So I do think that having that close evolutionary history of a ghost wolf and a red wolf will help in terms of narrowing down how we define it. But also, there's so much that the current red wolf definition doesn't incorporate. We don't know what we have. It could be astronomical. It could totally change everything. How much are we willing to gamble that if we don't keep these animals around, that we've just shot ourselves in the foot for lots of potential of saving not only an endangered species, red wolf that is ultimately going to keep deteriorating in genetic viability because it's a closed population, no new genes are coming in, they're dealing with what they have, and sometimes it's a struggle. Are we willing to gamble that plus everything else that might be existing in these ghost wolves? And if you get rid of this on the landscape, a coyote is just going to come in and you're still losing that biodiversity. But there is, in my opinion, value in something that is kind of undefinable. I mean, it's currently undefinable, but it is at least different from a coyote you see in Colorado or in New England or in Washington state. And I think that falls under the scope of protecting biodiversity, which has ecological impacts and function, and it plays a role that is distinct. Is it distinct enough, do we care? How distinct does it have to be before we finally care? And I think in the biodiversity crisis, we might as well just care. I mean, what could go wrong? So what? So we preserve a bunch of things for the next decade until technology and science and everything can give us the sophisticated algorithms we need, or genome sequencing for a dollar, or whatever it is, it would behoove us to do that now, to keep things around. Now, I don't know, but that's government saying what you can and can't do. And that becomes challenging, too. [00:33:19] Host: Yeah, that's where the rubber kind of meets the road. Right? And in terms of these definitions and how they're applied to management, policy and therefore conservation, even if we don't know exactly what we're conserving. But I couldn't agree more in terms of this relational perspective of caring, of recognizing that there is value in preserving these animals on the landscape. They're not only bringing genetic diversity, which has the potential to revive endangered populations of red wolves, but also they're fulfilling important food web and trophic niches. [00:33:57] Guest 1: I've got a question to pose. Does it matter? If the look of an organism and the function of an organism in an ecological sense, does it matter? Do we need that theory? Or can we suspect or predict that maybe eventually the DNA is going to catch up and be in line with the other things that are actually distinct? So I could challenge someone to say, well, maybe we're looking at a very plastic organism and it has found a place in the world where it reduces competition and has a really nice fit. It's figured out where it fits. We always talk about these evolutionary lags and we can see that you can look at some of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population viability analyses that try to predict how long will grizzly survive in Yellowstone. And we're like, oh great, we've passed that little mark that indicates we're in the concern zone and now the population should be self maintaining. So what does it matter sometimes if the DNA is there or not, if everything else is there? Do we care? [00:35:07] Guest 2: We care about the landscape because the landscape, what is promoting the plasticity, right? That landscape is what is promoting those more wolf like characteristics or the larger behaviors, particular prey type selection and things like that, or mate choice. And so do you care about the genome itself? [00:35:23] Guest 1: If that ghost wolf is doing a better job than a coyote, eventually it will become much more definitive in its genetic distinctiveness. And in the meantime, it will already. [00:35:34] Guest 2: Be a red wolf or a coyote. Right? So then it's own thing. [00:35:40] Guest 1: Yeah. [00:35:41] Guest 2: What, Latin for ghost? [00:35:44] Guest 1: Whoa. I'm doing a Google search. [00:35:48] Host: Keep the canid that's good at her job in business. Yeah, keep her in office. [00:35:54] Guest 2: But that might mean restricting margarita bills because then we're talking about the idea of what is promoting that, what is supporting the unique phenotypic behaviors and sizes and morphologies. Then it becomes the landscape. [00:36:07] Guest 1: I have a complete tangent. I just googled the latin word for ghost and I never have taken a latin class, so I don't know how to say it. The word looks like it's manes or manes. M a n e s. That makes me immediately think about the maned wolves. I mean, I know the species name for maned wolf, not just like Manus something, but we can't call this mane wolf or Manus wolf. It's too close to the amazing actual maned wolf in Brazil. But regardless, tidbit of knowledge for the day. [00:36:41] Host: That is exciting. [00:36:42] Guest 1: Yeah. So that margaritaville and the condos and. [00:36:45] Host: Whatnot, this goes back to the coexistence dynamic. [00:36:49] Guest 2: Right. [00:36:50] Host: And the human ecological impact. Yeah. Relations. [00:36:54] Guest 2: I feel like clearly these animals have done okay in some capacity living around people and development. But there will be a tipping point, right. That tips away from a particular size, a particular characteristic, a particular phenotype. And what do we want to preserve? We want to preserve what is unique. And part of what is unique is they need the space. Might not be that much space, but they need some space. [00:37:20] Host: People are starting to understand this need for stewardship in their values, in their principles, as well as it's latent in western cultural myths and theology, like Noah's ark. But the adjustment, therefore, is really in the social realm, the cultural realm of animals need space. Animals need habitat, just like humans. And even in human dominated landscapes, if we make a little space, we save a lot and we don't have to change our lives that much. How much of a difference does it make in Margaritaville to have a 50 or 100 foot corridor along the beach that is the ghost wolf corridor, where then you get to do some ghost wolf watching as well as it's going to benefit the property value in the long run because of the ecotourism dollars that eventually are coming in or already coming into the economy there and also. [00:38:18] Guest 1: Maintaining some permeable surfaces as a floodplain and a barrier island. [00:38:23] Host: Kind of important in Galveston. [00:38:25] Guest 1: It seems kind of important in Galveston, given the history of hurricanes and flooding and destruction. But I agree, it does not sound like a lot, but the developers and the owners of the land are not seemingly putting that dollar price tag as a sacrificial price tag for the economics of their soon to be Margaritaville and short term probably Airbnb rentals as condos. So it doesn't seem like a lot and the price tag, and it seems like you could gain a lot from it. And we've been trying to have discussions and share ideas about ecotourism and biotourism. And when tourists come having this moment to say, you are in their habitat, I know we have roads and I know it's a hotel, but this is where they're living. And it's a unique opportunity to see these animals just like it is when you go to Yellowstone and you're in a lodge and you can hear wolves in the morning or see moose in the winter. It just doesn't happen to be a beach town full of pavements and day tourists hopping off of a cruise ship just off coast. I don't know. Valuing this versus the science versus how do you make all the people involved happy and play together with each other nicely? Those are all very different perspectives, and I know that we've talked a lot about the current problems with gray wolf assessments and paths forward. There's an inherent lack of valuing the species, and it's been more focused on, is everyone happy at this table? Like, are the politicians happy? Are the commercial landowners? Whether it's businesses or farmers or the scientists, is everyone happy? And I know I'm only happy if the animals get what they need in terms of evolutionary safeguarding them. But that's a value system. I value the animals, but that inherently feels like people interpret that as, then do I value less? So the livelihood of ranchers and farmers who lose livestock for any means, it's not just wolves. Do I then value less the person in Galveston or the private landowners? Do they lose all of that? Does Galveston itself, as a city lose that economic opportunity for influx of money? I don't know. I kind of don't value that as much. I think the thing that makes Galveston special is indeed not enormous. Dozens of margaritavilles or whatever, the animals themselves, that's what makes it special. But I also don't live there, and I think that's difficult. [00:41:20] Guest 2: It's been an interesting discussion always with the development when it was brought to our attention and the people coming together to sort of have some pushback, because it's ever been a discussion of not doing it right, which is what we all would want. Right? We all don't want a margaritaville. But I think the people that value the ghost wolves and biodiversity and the environment and the nature of the island and the Gulf coast, we have to coexist, which means we have to try to reach across the table and understand someone else's value system and listen to it, hoping they listen to ours equally. With his equal respect. And I feel like we are really attempting to do that. Right. No one in the process is saying, stop development. Monkey wrench the cranes. It really has been like we're coming to the table to have a discussion so that there can be coexistence here for the economic growth that clearly is desired by the city and the developers. The developers want to make money, right? I think that what was it, the 50 or 100 foot corridor was a few million dollars worth of land, something crazy like that. And so there's an economic loss, but how many millions do you need? But I guess each million counts. And so I feel like kind of proud of how we have attempted to compromise here. Let's compromise. Let's work together. Like I think you were saying earlier, Josh, let's make this a model of coexistence and contradiction. Let's make this a draw. Let's make this a positive. I think it's just so outside the mentality of development and economic growth. I think it's just really foreign. And I think they maybe think they are doing it by even just allowing there to be a conversation. But there hasn't been any real demonstration that they're willing to move beyond just a conversation with us to action of what can we do to do better. I don't think they know how. [00:43:18] Host: Well, hopefully that's the role that IWCN and other advocacy groups can fill and support that conversation. We have seen the ability of stakeholders to find their way to actually implement coexistence management policies. We know it's possible. It's amazing to me, and rather frustrating, honestly, that the entire ecological conservation conversation inevitably comes down to financial incentives. It always comes down to this question of how do we make the box where the living wolf or the living forest is worth as much or more than the cut timber or the hunted wolf or the hunted elk, and trying to fit conservation needs and values into market values. But this is whats going on at the cops. This is whats going on at Davos. This is the high level conversation that so many really brilliant conservationists are trying to crack. Because if we dont, then theres no way for the economic machine to digest or recognize the value of the living world. [00:44:36] Guest 2: Yeah. And what a shame, because a ghost wolf on Galveston island won't economically be equal to a condo. Right. The tourist money isn't ever going to match a year of an Airbnb. Right. And so conservation is always going to lose when it is purely based on economics. Not in every situation, but a polar bear also isn't going to economically match oil exploration. Right. Now, I understand the value of putting an economic price tab on conservation and biodiversity, but it just doesn't seem it's. [00:45:09] Guest 1: Always stacked against it going to be in saber. And very rarely, very, very rarely will it favor the conservation need. [00:45:17] Guest 2: But you can't put a value, you can't put a price tag on mental health, right. Because that is what it is. It's our human connection to nature. [00:45:26] Host: Well, it's been really, really wonderful speaking with each of you and both of you. I really love your dynamic together. I'm sure you have a lot of fun every day working together. It's been fun being part of your team for a minute and just keep up the good work. We are such big fans. Really appreciate everything that you're doing in your spare time. [00:45:47] Guest 1: Oh yeah, again, this is 09:00 p.m. On Friday I'll be doing it. [00:45:52] Host: We appreciate you working hard. [00:45:53] Guest 1: Thanks for doing this. This means a lot to us. [00:45:56] Guest 2: It was a lot of fun. [00:46:09] Host: Besides being really fun. Guests Doctors von Holt and Bresci are helping IWCN make critical progress in restoring the United States ecosystems by protecting native carnivores. Please support our work at wildlife coexistence existence.org dot. As a special treat included in this episodes show notes is a small batch of photographs of the ghost wolves I saw in Galveston. Be sure to check out the link until next time. This has been for the wild ones. Thanks for joining us.

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