Millions of 'coywolf' coyote-wolf hybrids live in North America

Wolves, coyotes, and dogs have formed a new type of creature referred to as the "coywolf" — that is, it is primarily a coyote-wolf hybrid — and researchers estimate there are now millions of them roaming around North America. Researchers believe a growing lack of suitable mates lead wolves to start breeding with dogs and coyotes, and their offspring has turned out to be a strong new species spreading quickly across different types of environments.

According to North Carolina State University's Roland Kays, this new type of dog-wolf-coyote hybrid could number in the millions through North America, being most dense in the northeastern regions. Though the term 'coywolf' seems to be growing in popularity, the animals are also sometimes called eastern coyotes.

Another researcher, Javier Monzon, looked at 437 coywolves' genetic makeup and found that coyote DNA is the most dominant, with 25-percent coming from wolves and 10-percent coming from dogs — typically large-breed dogs like German Shepherds. The result of this arrangement is that coywolves are much larger than coyotes, typically weighing about 50lbs or more.

They're faster, more muscular, and have bigger jaws, all of which makes them more capable of taking down larger prey than coyotes. These coywolves can take down a deer, for example, while a pack of them can take down something as large as a moose.

Another unique result of this interbreeding is that coywolves are better suited for a variety of environments; the wolf genetics enables them to hunt in dense forests, while the coyote side is better suited to urban hunting, and the dog genetics are believed to make the animals more receptive to being around humans...meaning they're not shy to venture into dense cities.

This enables coywolves to expand into regions where, individually, the creatures may not be found. According to researchers, coywolves have been found living in Boston, New York City, and Washington DC, among other places.

SOURCE: The Economist