Molecular techniques show that hybridization can be a major conservation problem. Introgression can lessen genotypic variety and break up gene complexes coadapted to local environments. Gamete wastage can be a problem for hybridizing species even when gene flow does not occur. Birds and mammals introduced for game purposes have hybridized with native populations, a process often facilitated by habitat modification. Further, translocation and stock enhancement programs can lead to loss of well-adapted genotypes. These problems increase as populations become fragmented and isolated, because finding mates is harder and habitat differences that bar reproduction are obliterated. What to do about hybridization is sometimes not obvious. Even if the problem is seen as important, often little can be done. Culling may be impossible because of difficulties in recognizing introgressed individuals. Wildlife biologists and managers should work to prevent introductions and translocations if hybridization problems cannot be ruled out. Further, wildlife professionals should educate the public about evolutionary aspects of introductions and translocations, including hybridization and introgression.
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Vol. 2 • No. 3