Coyote/Coywolf

A news item Friday caught my attention – a coyote had been caught wandering around downtown Boston. I wasn’t particularly surprised. Their numbers have been increasing drastically, and in the areas outside of town, sightings are commonplace.

What did pique my interest is that all the news reports dutifully referred to the animal as a coyote.

To be sure, there is such a thing as the Eastern Coyote that has inhabited New England since the 1930s. Over time, they have become bigger, more powerful predators than their scrawnier Western Coyote cousins. Researchers say that the abundance of food, and bigger game such as deer, accounts for some of the difference

Recent genetic research has added a new twist.

Most of the animals we’re calling coyotes are in fact a hybrid resulting from the mating of the eastern wolf and the eastern coyote. The resulting animal is bigger, more powerful, and more aggressive than either the wolf or the coyote.

The name “coydog,” which still persists in some places, apparently comes from the mistaken notion that this hybrid is a result of mating between domestic dogs and coyotes. While such mating is possible and has been accomplished in captivity, it is unlikely in the wild, according to researchers, because of differing fertility cycles.

Maybe it’s time for a name change, to help recognize the animal for what it is. There is a website dedicated to this, full of interesting information about the coywolf:

http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

As for the Mass. Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife, they have not addressed the name issue, calling these animals coyotes, with no mention of coywolf in their literature.

And as for the hapless Boston coyote/coywolf, it was captured, tagged, and released into the woods of Westboro.

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