Do “Coywolfs” or “Coydogs” Really Exist?

eastern-coyote

Stories have been floating around the internet for the last few years about a coyote-wolf or coyote-dog hybrid.

I have heard a couple of eye witness accounts one from my own brother who claims to have seen such a creature. He described it a normal coyote but much larger, pretty much a coyote on steroids. I completely trust my brother and do not doubt what he saw.

The people over at TheConversation.com have also heard the tales and asked the question does this type of hybrid exist. There answer is:

“There is no doubt that there is a hybrid canid living in the eastern US, and that it is the result of an amazing evolution story unfolding right underneath our noses….However, this is not a new species – at least not yet – and I don’t think we should start calling it a “coywolf.”

They went on to explain that all eastern coyotes are actually a mix of three species: coyote, wolf and dog. The percentages vary, dependent upon exactly which test is applied and the geographic location of the canine. Tests show that there are no animals that are just coyote and wolf (that is, a coywolf), and some eastern coyotes that have almost no wolf at all.

All eastern coyotes show some evidence of past hybridization, but there is no sign that they are still actively mating with dogs or wolves. The coyote, wolf and dog are three separate species that would very much prefer not to breed with each other. However, biologically speaking, they are similar enough that interbreeding is possible.

Coyotes with odd coat colors or hair types are probably the most conspicuous sign of dog genes in action, while their slightly larger size might come from wolf genes. Some of these genes will help an animal survive and breed; others will make them less fit.

The coyote has not evolved into a new species over the last century. Hybridization and expansion have created a host of new coyote variations in the east, and evolution is still sorting these out. Gene flow continues in all directions, keeping things mixed up, and leading to continual variation over their range, with no discrete boundaries.

So it should not be surprising to see some coyotes that seem larger than normal or some with slightly different coloration. It is just the hybrid genes coming through. So What is the eastern coyote? You could call it a distinct “subspecies,” call it an “ecomorph,” or call it by its scientific name Canis latrans var. But don’t call it a new species, and please, don’t call it the coywolf or Coydog.

If you want to read the piece in its entirety which I found very interesting click HERE