Is it the thing of myth and legend, or a new savage beast prowling the Eastern United States?
After a recent New York Times Magazine article sparked debate over a new super predator dubbed the “coywolf,” researchers have been at odds over whether the hybrid coyote-wolf-dog is for real. But one thing’s for certain, the coywolf has re-ignited a discussion over predator impact on livestock and whether there’s a new species for hunters to manage.
According to several reports, a coywolf results from the breeding of a Western coyote with remnants of the Eastern wolf, which was hunted out of existence early in the 20th century. Scientists claim the coywolf also has domestic dog DNA in its makeup, resulting in what some call a “canis soup” of a predator.
“It can be as much as 40 percent larger than the Western coyote, with powerful wolflike jaws; it has also inherited the wolf’s more social nature, which allows for pack hunting,” writes Moises Velasquez-Manoff in the New York Times Magazine. “The result has been a creature with enough strength to hunt the abundant woodland deer, which it followed into the recovering Eastern forests.”
According to researchers, the coywolf population has spread south to Virginia and north to Newfoundland.
There’s some doubt, however, about the true origin of the coywolf, also known as the “Eastern coyote.” Scientists generally agree that coyotes and wolves don’t tend to mix together, often fighting each other over territory. Some even wonder whether the coywolf might be the basis for the mythical “Chupacabra” which slashes the necks of its prey, draining it of blood.
Whatever you call it, there’s clearly a new predator in town that could be putting down stakes right next door.
“In an exceedingly brief period, coyote, wolf and dog genes have been remixed into something new: a predator adapted to a landscape teeming with both prey and another apex predator, us,” Velasquez-Manoff wrote. “And this mongrel continues to evolve.”