This study traces its origins to wildlife biologist Ron Wooten, who had been observing a population of canines on Galveston Island. He emailed vonHoldt’s lab asking for genetic testing of two road-killed animals. “I regularly receive this kind of inquiry, but something about Wooten’s email stood out,” said vonHoldt. “His enthusiasm and dedication struck me, along with some very intriguing photographs of the canines. They looked particularly interesting and I felt it was worth a second look.”“Somewhere along the way, the second sample had gotten lost and he ended up sending us the dirty scalpel he had used to take the sample,” said Heppenheimer. “We have a huge inventory of coyote and wolf samples in the lab, and it’s quite rare that I would remember any one sample arriving, but no one had ever sent us a scalpel before, so it was a pretty memorable experience trying to extract this DNA.”Once the researchers extracted and processed the DNA, they compared the samples to each of the legally recognized wild species of the genus Canis that occur in North America. They used samples from 29 coyotes from Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas; 10 gray wolves from Yellowstone National Park; 10 eastern wolves (C. lycaon) from Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario; and 11 red wolves from the red wolf captive breeding program.When they ran their genetic analyses, they found that the Galveston Island animals were more similar to captive red wolves than typical southeastern coyotes.