Press Release: New genetic paper on “Coywolves” in Northeastern North America

Eastern Coyote Research is pleased to announce the publication and posting of the following peer-reviewed scientific paper:

 

Way, J.G. 2013. Taxonomic Implications of Morphological and Genetic Differences in Northeastern Coyotes (Coywolves) (Canis latrans × C. lycaon), Western Coyotes (C. latrans), and Eastern Wolves (C. lycaon or C. lupus lycaon). Canadian Field-Naturalist 127(1): 1–16.

 

There has been much recent discussion on the taxonomy and classification of “eastern coyotes” in Northeastern North America since the 2010 release of 2 important genetic papers that detailed that eastern coyotes are hybrids between western coyotes and wolves. However, there has been some discrepancy as to the actual degree of wolf influence, and the species of wolf involved in this hybridization episode. This current paper reviews those and other peer reviewed papers on the genetics and body masses of canids in Northeastern North America. Most of the recent reviews on eastern North American Canis have focused on eastern wolves and have concluded that the eastern wolf is a distinct species. However, there has also been an abundance of recent research on coyote genetics in eastern North America, and this paper synthesizes those articles.

 

It was found that “eastern coyotes” are statistically intermediate, both genetically and morphologically, to western coyotes and eastern wolves. This paper makes a strong case that “eastern coyotes” should more appropriately be called “coywolves” and not a type of coyote since they are statistically different from both of their parent species. Importantly, these coywolves have important genetic markers that the original/native eastern wolf had/has, but which has been extirpated from the majority of its range south of Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario (where it still resides). The hybridization episodes that created the coywolf likely occurred in southeastern Ontario in the early 1900s. Subsequently, this animal (first called coydog, then eastern coyote or simply just coyote) colonized northern New England and NY ~50-70 years ago and in the past 10-20 years has saturated nearly all available habitat in the Northeast.

 

Eastern Coyote Research and other groups (such as the Maine Wolf Coalition), along with the state wildlife agencies in the Northeast U.S., often receives reports from lay people who claim they have seen wolves. Most of these reports are dismissed as the person having simply seen “coyotes”. However, these people may not be far off, as this hybrid “coywolf” often appears wolf-like since its genetic makeup comes from both the native eastern wolf as well as western coyotes, both of which are closely related to each other (and which mated together to form the coywolf). It is the mission of Eastern Coyote Research that science is used to disseminate accurate information to the public as well as wildlife managers to better conserve canids; and results from this paper suggest that coywolf is the most appropriate term for this hybrid animal living throughout the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. Better protection of the coywolf may enable wolves to return to the Northeast one day.

About Jonathan Way

Jonathan (Jon) Way has a B.S. (UMass Amherst), M.S. (UConn Storrs), and doctorate (Boston College) related to the study of eastern coyotes/coywolves. He is the author of 2 books: 1) Suburban Howls, an account of his experiences studying eastern coyotes in Massachusetts, and 2) My Yellowstone Experience, which details – in full color – the spectacular wildlife, scenery, and hydrothermal features that can be found in the world’s first national park. Jon founded and runs an organization, Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Research, where he is continuing his goal of long-term ecological and behavioral research on coywolves. He also supplements his research with regular trips to Yellowstone National Park. He is seeking a publisher for a 3rd book project of his: "Coywolf".
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