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The Coywolf, Evolution in Action
Recent genetic verification has confirmed the coywolf, also known as the eastern coyote, is a new hybrid species. The differences between eastern and western coyotes have long been recognized. The reason is now known to be due to interbreeding between coyotes and wolves. Coywolves are bigger, some can reach 80 pounds. They have longer legs, bigger feet, and tails similar to wolves. Like coyotes they are less afraid of humans. Scientist describe them as the most versatile species. They will scavenge and eat everything from small rodents to deer. Coywolves have rapidly spread over southeastern Canada and northeastern United States, ranging from wilderness to urban areas, including Toronto, Montreal, Boston and even New York.
Coywolves fill an important ecological niche that used to be filled by wolves. They are not only an example of accelerated evolution, but an example of a species that evolved to a great degree because of the actions of humans. Roughly 100 years ago deforestation, wolf control programs, changing habitat, and a reduction of prey, resulted in the decrease of the wolf population around the Great Lakes. The adaptability of of coyotes meant they thrived in these same conditions and as their numbers grew they moved east into the Great Lakes territory.
The creation of hybrid species are rare in the wild. Most occur in captivity. The interbreeding of coyotes and wolves was viewed as highly unlikely, because in other places wolves kill coyotes. In Algonquin Park, however, coyotes and wolves mate and raise the pups together.
Coywolves do pose problems that need to be addressed. They are known to hunt sheep and other smaller livestock as well as pets. Their encroachment into red wolf territory has made hybridization the biggest threat to red wolves. Coywolves are an fasinating species, they are very social animals often living in packs of three to five members. They are incredibly family oriented, there is evidence that if the mother dies her mate raised the pups. They are smart, adaptable and beautiful creatures vital to the ecological system.
Check out the documentary Meet the Coywolf, for a look at these amazing and beautiful creatures.
Meet the Coywolf
- CBC -The Nature of Things with David Suzuki - - Meet the Coywolf
A remarkable new creature has slipped unnoticed into our cities. Part coyote, part wolf this new hybrid is both fascinating and baffling scientists. We share our parks, our streets even our backyards with these wild animals, but few of us have ever s