The secret of the Eastern coyote was revealed just this year when scientists discovered wolf DNA in coyotes living in the U.S. Northeast. The scientists hypothesize that the Western coyotes mated with wolves as they migrated eastward north of the Great Lakes across Canada during the last century.
The finding helps to explain why the Eastern coyotes are larger than their Western cousins, and why the colors of their coats vary—a predictable result of an out-cross. That the Eastern coyotes are more adept at deer hunting than their Western forebears is another observation that supports the hypothesis. The Western coyote tends to restrict its hunting to smaller game like voles and rabbits.
Evidence that the animals thought for decades to be coyotes are in fact coyote-wolf hybrids was released by two research teams. Roland W. Kays, curator of mammals at the New York State Museum, led a team that studied coyotes from New Jersey to Maine. Jonathan Way, wildlife biologist with the Eastern Coyote Research consulting firm, and his colleagues studied coyotes around Cape Cod and Boston. Both teams published their papers independently.
For more, see Carol Kaesuk Yoon’s September 27 article in the New York Times.
October 3, 2010