Evolution in our Backyards
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EXIT 71; I-95n To: FOUR MILE RIVER RD, Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme CT
Ok, listen up kids! Upcoming is a Road Test but first the Fast Facts: People living in Eastern Connecticut may not know that eastern coyotes aren’t true coyotes at all. They are hybrids, or coywolves. Coywolves only emerged over the last century and have since spread successfully over much of eastern North America.
A hundred years ago, as deforestation and poisoning depleted the population numbers of eastern wolves, the last wolves interbred with western coyotes. The hybrid is about 55 pounds heavier than pure coyotes.
Coywolves today are one a quarter wolf and one tenth dog. That blend helps make the hybrid so successful that it now numbers in the millions. Wolves hunt large prey in open space in packs. Coyotes hunt alone anywhere for smaller prey. Despite being almost as large as a wolf, Coywolves have borrowed their coyote ancestor’s trait to hunt small prey alone in our suburban patchwork of vegetation. And yes, all too often that prey includes Puss and Fido. So bring your pets inside at night! Interbreeding has produced an animal skilled at catching prey anywhere. At least 20 now live in New York City. They even stalk prey of fin, fur, and feather along our eastern beaches.
Since coywolves can still breed with wolves and dogs it means it doesn’t quite fit the definition of a new species. But that may change. According to a PBS Special focused on the new canine, Coywolves are telling an "amazing contemporary evolution story that’s happening right underneath our nose but for now coywolves are enjoying the advantages of hybrid vigor.”
Now the Road Test: Are eastern coywolves bigger or smaller than western coyotes?
#Coywolves #Coyotes #Wolf #Evolution #Hybrids #Connecticut #Connecticutcoywolves #Preyonpets #Huntalone
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