Skip to comments.Meet the coywolf: A newly emerging species is behind the brazen attacks in Durham
Posted on 08/15/2009 11:21:28 AM PDT by jazusamo
Is it a coyote? Is it a wolf?
Yes and yes. It's a "coywolf."
The predators that are plaguing Durham Region and showing up in urban areas appear to be an emerging species resulting from wolves and coyotes interbreeding.
The larger, highly adaptable animals "have the wolf characteristics of pack hunting and aggression and the coyote characteristics of lack of fear of human-developed areas," says Trent University geneticist Bradley White, who's been studying the hybrids for 12 years.
We're seeing "evolution in action," he says.
But that combination of genetic material from both species has spelled trouble for farmers, who are losing a growing number of livestock to predators.
They report attacks by animals that are bigger, bolder and smarter than regular coyotes. They say hunting in packs to prey on sheep and cattle in broad daylight is becoming a common behaviour.
Durham Region farmers have suffered the most damage to livestock in the province. Last year the food and agriculture ministry paid out a total compensation of $168,000 in the region for 545 dead or injured animals.
Commonly called eastern coyotes, the creatures are actually a mixture of western coyote and eastern wolf that comes from a constantly evolving gene pool, says White, chair and professor of biology in Peterborough.
Going back 100 years, deforestation, wolf control programs and changing habitat, ecosystems and prey conspired to drive down the wolf population. Meanwhile, the number of coyotes whose original range was in western North America grew, thanks to their ability to adapt and reproduce with ease. The two species started to interbreed, White explains.
"In many ways, this animal is a creation of human impact on the planet," says White.
Although the coywolf hybrid has only recently been verified through genetic research, White believes they started appearing in southern Algonquin Park back in the 1920s.
Colleague Paul Wilson, a wildlife genetics specialist, says the genetic gumbo from which coywolves emerge produces some that are more wolf-like, while others have more coyote characteristics. But they're definitely bigger.
"Some of these are 80-pound animals, double the size of a typical coyote that used to be 40 pounds."
But there's no cause for alarm, says John Pisapio, a wildlife biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources, which is studying the role of coyotes and wolves in the ecosystem.
Hybrids may be larger but there's no evidence the population as a whole is more aggressive or prone to aberrant behaviour, he says.
He agrees predation on livestock is a concern they do kill sheep and smaller animals but insists attacks on cattle are unusual.
"As a biologist I find it hard to explain how a coyote brings down a 900-pound steer."
In some cases, coyotes might just be feeding on an animal that died from other causes, he says.
The population growth is a natural upswing following a mange epidemic that wiped out big numbers eight or nine years ago, he adds.
Pisapio says instances of fearlessness or brazen attacks are usually the result of coyotes that have come to associate food with people and lose their natural fear of humans.
That belief is echoed by Johnny, "The Critter Gitter," who didn't want his last name used because people don't like that he kills problem wildlife for a living.
"I kill coyotes. I don't sugarcoat it," he says.
But he feels sympathy for them.
"Humans are to blame for making monsters of them," he says. Coyotes are attracted by pet food and garbage left lying around in urban areas, and deadstock on farms.
They're not all bad and often get the blame when dogs kill livestock, he says. Johnny also doubts they're making a regular meal of cattle. During the 30 years he's worked in the province, he's seen only a few cases of "large, healthy animals taken down by coyotes."
But as coywolves become more urbanized and their relationship with people continues to evolve, city dwellers can expect problems, says White, suggesting a control program may be needed at some point.
"They will clearly bump into human activities, and there will be pets eaten in Rouge Valley."
This guy calls himself a scientist? This is as much evolution as a Mule is.
No, I am not a creationist, just someone who knows science when he sees it and this aint it.
Yep, it’s just cross breeding.
“evolution in action”, yes because they are the same species. Species often intermingle...done with prize dogs all the time.
Your not looking at a mountain lion and a wolf evolving...
“We’re seeing “evolution in action,” says Trent University geneticist Bradley White.
More likely some good ole boy foolin with mother nature.
You may well be right. Wolf/dog hybrids are the result of man fooling around with mother nature.
This is an extremely dangerous animal and should be destroyed immediately.
Wolves have a great degree of raw intelligence and pack coordination to conduct elaborate hunting operations. They are intellectually on the same par as a five year old child. But they go to great lengths to avoid human contact.
Coyotes have a different order of intelligence, entirely. They are expert tacticians, and will plan and execute schemes which they will fearlessly use against humans. They will even pretend to be friendly and have no problem operating in suburban or even urban areas.
These two mixed together would likely defeat an equal number of large fighting dogs, and an armed adult human would have to be very careful to avoid any area with concealment, lest they be attacked by several animals from several directions at once. It is likely that they would even take the human’s weapon into account in their strategy.
Any area where these animals are sighted should be placed off limits for foot travel until they can be eliminated.
Odd looking animal, think wolves are prettier but am not keen on running up the numbers of them, can do without coyotes.
They'll be attacking people next starting with the young and weak. Oh heck, they'll just attack whatever they're in a mood to attack like bears do.
I don’t doubt they’re a threat to man. This is the first I’ve read of them and am going to do some further looking.
Dude, unknot your panties. It's a dog. Yes, they can be dangerous, but you (apparently by being on the internet) are self-defined as a human as the Ace #1 Killer on the planet. Kill them. Eat them. Do not fear them.
Hell, humans keep carnivores for pets, almost exclusively. We're the bad-asses on this globe.
I live in Mountain Top Pa. Last winter I was cross country skiing in a snow storm late one night and was tracked by a group of these critters. Guy who works for me trapped one and it weighed 65 pounds. Have a picture of it somewhere. A pack of 65 pound crafty animals is pretty scary.
Girl coyotes must run around sporting big grins!!
Someone had to say it.
Scary is the 1800 lbs bulls that share the pasture with me. They are s--thouse rat crazy, since we're keeping them from the cows. I'd take 65lb dogs any day. At least I wouldn't have to repair fences.
Some people find evolution in everything...Like you said about the mule, or tiger/lion cross’s.. It just means they are nuts and I don’t have to read any farther....
Does a steer ever have a phase of life where it's known as a calf??
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.