Creature Feature

Creature Feature – A Coyote by Any Other Name…

Posted by  //  November 23, 2020  //  Articles, Creature Feature

Since migrating to our region over a century ago, eastern coyotes have become an established part of the landscape.  While colloquial names like coy wolf, brush wolf and coy dog seem to suggest different animals, they are all eastern coyotes.  People are surprised to learn that all eastern coyotes (the only kind present in NY State) are a hybrid, produced by crossbreeding between western coyotes, both western and eastern wolves and even domestic dogs.  In a matter of fact, a 2012 study sampling 407 coyotes from several northeast states and Quebec, found that 100% of the animals carried domestic dog DNA.  Although there were variations, the study concluded that the average eastern coyote is about 65% western coyote, 25% wolf (about half western gray wolf and half eastern wolf) and 10% dog.  With variations in genetic ratios, physical characteristics often differ among individuals.  One coyote might be smallish with finer limbs and facial features; another could be larger with heavier bones and a broad skull.  The latter can trick people into “crying wolf,” although they are actually seeing an eastern coyote with more wolf genes.  While hybridization often creates sterile offspring (i.e. mules), eastern coyotes are an evolutionary success story.  As humans have removed most large natural predators, wildlife biologists support the presence of coyotes as they play an important role in a healthy ecosystem’s predator-prey dynamic.

Article & photo by Margie Manthey

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