Japan Wolf Reintroduction: Cryptozoology Meets Activism, Are Japanese Wolves Actually Extinct? If So Will Japan Bring Some Back?

Recently we have been writing about Sika deer and the future of tissue regeneration. Japanese Sika deer are growing in number, in part because their chief predator, Japanese wolves, have been declared extinct. But will there be a wolf reintroduction in Japan?

Many animal lovers will not take “No!” for an answer. Especially when it comes to extinction. Many applaud this never-say-die attitude when folks are determined to save a threatened animal. Such as the desert bears of Mongolia. Those bears are a species of brown bear (Ursos arctos) that have managed to eke out an existence in the Gobi Desert.

Japanese wolf and the moon
An artist’s depiction of a Japanese wolf as found on Openverse. Efforts to facilitate Japan wolf reintroduction are underway.

It becomes more controversial when the issue is cryptozoology. And even more controversial when the animal is a wolf. Cryptozoology is a minefield of beliefs about creatures that probably never existed (Bigfoot) or were wrongly declared extinct (coelacanths). We have dealt a little with crypto here – talking about Tasmanian tigers (thylacines) and some people’s determined search to prove they still live in the wild.

A museum specimen. Photo extinct animals.org Efforts are afoot to reintroduce wolves to Japan

In Japan, the issue is Japanese wolves. The official record says that the last was killed in 1905. But some people are determined to try and find living specimens. The last thylacine died in captivity around 1936. There are peoply who dispute this and search for living examples.

Both are probably gone in the wild. There are efforts to “de-extinct” the thylacine and growing efforts to re-introduce wolves to Japan.

Taxidermy Mount - Thylacine, <em>Thylacinus cynocephalus</em> (Harris, 1808)
Taxidermy Mount – Thylacine, Thylacinus cynocephalus (Harris, 1808) by Photographer: Rodney Start is licensed under CC-BY 4.0 Thylacines are probably extinct like Japanese wolves

The question, of course, is do enough Japanese people want to reintroduce wolves? Wolf re-introduction is a very controversial topic all over the world. In the United States wolf lovers and and wolf haters have squared off. Colorado is a flashpoint in the battle over reintroduction. Wolf killers do their work in western states too. In Oregon police were searching for wolf poisoners who killed 8 wolves.

The Japan Wolf Association (JWA) is one of the key organizations trying to bring wolves back. According to the International Wolf Foundation the JWA is a grass roots organization seeking to recerse ecological problems facing that nation. Deforestation and industrialization have taken their toll. Lately rural areas have been abandoned for cities. There are fewer hunters. The result is conflict between people, bears, wild boar and deer. Proponents hope to help restore the balance by reintroducing the Japanese wolf.

The Japanese wolf (Canis hodopylax ) was native to several islands on the Japanese archipelago. It was about the size of a border collie and had shorter legs and a smoother coat than many other wolves. Reintroduction would have to come from the most closely related existing wolves, thought to be Himalayan wolves (Canis lupus chanco).

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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