A Merge for a New Species
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EXIT of the DAY:
Exit 71 I-95n To Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme CT
"Ok, listen up kids! Upcoming is a Road Test but first the Fast Facts: Oh and yeah, there is a howling good reward. The winner of this gets a 12 ounce free fountain drink at any of the Connecticut I-95 Alltown Service Plazas with a $20 fill up of fuel. The Fuel is brought to you by Mobil and the free fountain drink is brought to you by Alltown. Just tell the cashier that RoadSpoke sent you. Now listen closely my dogged Road Crew, cause here are the Fast Facts:
Look out into the woods around you. Something there lurks. Its big and furry and has sharp teeth. It may be watching you now. Even scarier, like the Frankenstein monster, it is made up of different parts from different animals. And no it is not Frankenstein, or the Jersey Devil, or even Big Foot. It is the wily coy wolf!
Surprisingly, most people here living in Eastern Connecticut may not know that eastern coyotes aren’t true coyotes at all. Coy wolves are hybrids of several species, three in fact.
According to the New York Times, coy wolves only emerged in the last century. Genetic research actually tracked the first coy wolves to a location in Canada above the Great Lakes. Pretty cool huh? That was the first place that a lonely wolf and a cute little coyote first got together. Somehow there was also a friendly domestic doggy involved. So it was no doubt a scandalous canine love triangle — but more on that in a minute…
Over a few decades, coy wolves have spread successfully over much of eastern North America. In essence they moved into a niche previously occupied by a competing carnivore. The wily coy wolf outcompeted the burly wolf.
A hundred years ago, as poisoning depleted the numbers of eastern wolves, the last of their tribe interbred with western coyotes. The resultant canine is heavier than pure coyotes who weigh in at just 50 pounds. At the same time this new dog was about two thirds the size of Grey Wolves. In sum, coy wolves are about 70 pounds while wolves typically weigh in between 80-100 pounds. FYI, the largest wolf on record weighed in at 175 pounds. That is a big pooch!
According to the PBS program NATURE, genetic researchers determine what species compose this veritable franken-puppy. Coy wolves today are one tenth dog, one quarter wolf, and about two thirds coyote. That blend of characteristics helps make the hybrid so successful that it now numbers in the millions. But why?
Like Darwin’s Evolution on steroids, certain traits inherited from various species have enabled coy wolves to thrive where pure-blood species went extinct. For instance, wolves hunt large prey in packs. Human encroachment prohibited wolf packs to run wild. So they disappeared. However, coyotes hunt alone anywhere mostly for smaller prey like mice.
Despite being almost as large as a wolf, coy wolves have inherited their coyote ancestral trait to hunt alone in our suburban patchwork of vegetation. Still being so much bigger than coyotes their menus go from appetizers like mice all the way up to a main course of Deer. And yes, all too often that prey includes Puss and Fido. So bring your pets inside at night.
Interbreeding has produced a pup skilled at hunting anything -- anywhere!
And I mean anywhere. At least 20 now live in New York City on Manhattan Island.
Nothing if not versatile, they even stalk prey of fur, feather, and even fin along our east coach beaches. Because of the open terrain, they are often seen on beaches at dawn or dusk.
So are coy wolves now considered their own species? Apparently not. Since coy wolves 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 the PBS Special focused on the new canine, coy wolves are telling an "amazing contemporary evolution story that’s happening right underneath our nose. But for now coy wolves are enjoying the advantages of hybrid vigor.”
Now the road test: Are eastern coy wolves bigger or smaller than western coyotes?
You have three seconds to answer. Three and two and… one. Ok. If you said “Bigger,” you are correct. So purchase just $20 or more of Mobil Fuel at anyone of the Connecticut Alltown Service Plazas along I-95 and claim your small Fountain drink. Just tell em RoadSpoke and the coy wolves sent you.
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