30 Oct 2015
A new species combining wolves, coyotes and dogs is evolving before scientists’ eyes in the eastern United States.
Wolves faced with a diminishing number of potential mates are lowering their standards and mating with other, similar species, reported The Economist.
The interbreeding began up to 200 years ago, as European settlers pushed into southern Ontario and cleared the animal’s habitat for farming and killed a large number of the wolves that lived there.
That also allowed coyotes to spread from the prairies, and the white farmers brought dogs into the region.
Over time, wolves began mating with their new, genetically similar neighbors.
The resulting offspring — which has been called the eastern coyote or, to some, the “coywolf” — now number in the millions, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.
Interspecies-bred animals are typically less vigorous than their parents, The Economist reported — if the offspring survive at all.
That’s not the case at all with the wolf-coyote-dog hybrid, which has developed into a sum greater than the whole of its parts.
At about 55 pounds, the hybrid animal is about twice as heavy as a standard coyote, and its large jaws, faster legs and muscular body allow it to take down small deer and even hunt moose in packs, and the animal is skilled at hunting in both open terrain and dense woodland.