Coywolves: Coyote & Wolf hybrids in Michigan

Coyote on Ice by Jakphoto

Hunting on Ice, photo by OnceJakPhoto

The Freep has an article about a new animal that is being seen in Michigan titled Michigan’s mysterious, misunderstood coywolves:

…a unique, still relatively unknown and misunderstood hybrid of coyotes known as eastern coyotes or coywolves. They’re mostly coyote, but contain a small percentage of wolf from an unlikely mating of the two species about a century ago. It may sound like an urban legend, but coywolves exist throughout the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada, and have been confirmed in northeast Lower Michigan through blood-testing and DNA analysis.

Coywolves tend to be a little larger and heavier than their western coyote counterparts, but still well below the size of even the smallest North American wolves. They look like coyotes, though observers often note wolflike characteristics in their faces and fur.

…Coyote expert Stan Gehrt, a professor of wildlife ecology at Ohio State University, rejects the term “coywolf.” He doesn’t even like referring to them as hybrids. It leaves the impression that they are a near 50-50 mix of wolf and coyote, and that just isn’t the case, he said.

“They are eastern coyotes,” Gehrt said. “They aren’t really different from other coyotes, other than they have a little bit of genetic difference. I’ve trapped and tracked hundreds of Midwestern coyotes and a pretty good sample of eastern coyotes in Nova Scotia, and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two.”

But those, including biologists, who encountered coywolves up close in the Lower Peninsula say they had some wolflike features.

Read on for more including a photo of an actual Michigan coywolf. If you think you’ve seen a coywolf, you can report it online through the DNR or by calling the DNR’s Gaylord office at 989-732-3541, ext. 5901.

If you’re interested in learning more, Meet the Coywolf from PBS’s Nature is a cool profile of this animal that you can watch online for free.

Jim caught this photo of a coyote on the ice of Grand Traverse Bay last week. View it bigger on Flickr and jump into his slideshow for more icy goodness.

More Michigan wildlife on Michigan in Pictures.

3 thoughts on “Coywolves: Coyote & Wolf hybrids in Michigan

  1. I live in Northern NH where the Coywolf abounds. I see plenty of them and they hang out in the woods behind my house. If you want to see an excellent documentary on how the species began and encroachment concerns, check out PBS “Meet The Coywolf.” You can watch it on streaming Netflix or via DVD.

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