Meet The Coywolf on PBS This Wednesday, January 22, at 8.00 PM. Find out where all that howling at the moon on Cape Ann is coming from.
Six Week Old Coywolf.
The coywolf, a mixture of western coyote and eastern wolf, is a remarkable new hybrid carnivore that is taking over territories once roamed by wolves and slipping unnoticed into our cities. Its appearance is very recent — within the last 90 years — in evolutionary terms, a blip in time. Beginning in Canada but by no means ending there, the story of how it came to be is an extraordinary tale of how quickly adaptation and evolution can occur, especially when humans interfere. Tag along as scientists study this new top predator, tracking it from the wilderness of Ontario’s Algonquin Park, through parking lots, alleys and backyards in Toronto all the way to the streets of New York City. -PBS
Everyone knows that coyotes have moved onto Cape Ann and Cape Cod but did you know they are actually a new hybrid with the eastern wolf? The DNA typing of this new species is just in its infancy. Mostly using mitochondrial DNA to get a rough understanding but now that genomic sequencing is much cheaper a more detailed picture is forming. Some coyotes trapped have come up as 90% eastern wolf DNA! These hybrids, I’ll call them coywolf from now on, are bigger than coyotes. They are very sociable, live in family packs and can have a range of ten square miles. That is a decent chunk of Cape Ann. I would guess though if the food is plentiful they would hang in one region near their den.
Should you be fearful of these coywolves? You shouldn’t. In fact we should be happy they are here. They fill the niche that the wolf filled here for centuries and now she is back. They eat deer, mice, rabbits, all those small animals. The deer and mice are key. Lyme disease has a life cycle that explodes when deer and mice populations increase. Knocking down both of these populations will keep Lyme disease in check.
Yes, the coywolves will eat your cat but your cat should not be out there anyway. Feral and outdoor cats eat more than 3 billion birds in the US annually. You can’t blame them. They have been trained to do this since ancient egyptian times protecting granaries from vermin. They don’t even eat them just killing one bird after another. Keep your cat inside and let these coywolves keep the population of Lyme disease plagued vermin like deer and mice down to tolerable levels. They are a perfect fit for Cape Ann. They don’t like to eat birds. And if you find a dead coywolf I need just a very small blood sample to run a genetic haplotype test to see how much of a wolf she was. But please do not hunt them. They are doing us all a big favor. Imagine going for a hike in Dogtown and having no fear of being covered by disease ridden deer ticks. If you’ve had Lyme disease you should kiss a wolf on the lips for moving into your neighborhood. They might even take out a fishercat or two.
If the genetic testing of the coywolves on Cape Ann come up as over 80% wolf DNA we can drop the hybrid coywolf name. That is a wolf.
[3/26/13 edit] Lots of great comments on this article. For some local information on wolves go to Wolf Hollow in Ipswich: