Answer by Diane Eager

The” coywolf” is an animal that has proliferated in north eastern USA and south eastern Canada over the previous century. Genetic studies have shown that it has a mix of genes from the western coyote, eastern wolf, grey wolf, and domestic dog.  Most of it genes are coyote and eastern wolf, so it seems to have originated from interbreeding between western coyotes (Canis latrans) and eastern/red wolves (Canis lycaon).

Its body structure and behaviour show this mix of origins. Its overall body size is twice as large as a coyote and it has larger stronger jaws and muscle.  This means it can hunt down larger prey than a coyote.  Coyotes prefer to hunt in open country, whilst wolves prefer forested areas.  The coywolf will hunt in both environments.  Unlike wolves and coyotes, the coywolf can also survive in urban environments.  Its domestic dog ancestry seems to have made it more tolerant of people and noise, and it has been observed to safely negotiate man-made structures such as roads and bridges.

The coywolf’s howl is also a mix of wolf and coyote sounds, beginning with a deep pitched call like a wolf howl, but ending with a high pitched sound like a coyote’s yip.

Is it a new species?

There is some debate about how to classify this animal. Species are usually defined as a group of organisms that breed amongst themselves, but not with other species.  When different species do attempt to cross-breed any live offspring, known as hybrids, are invariably infertile, e.g. the mule.  As the coywolves are fertile amongst themselves they are not classic hybrids.  However, they are not a separate species from coyotes, wolves or dogs as they can breed with all of these.

This is no problem if you consider the Biblical history of the world, which tells us that animals were created in separate kinds. Therefore, there would have been an original canine kind, which included the original ancestors of all the canines on the earth today.  After Noah’s flood canines would have spread out over the earth with small groups of animals finding niches where they could survive and breed amongst themselves.  This inbreeding would reinforce whatever characteristics predominated in the original group, giving rise to the different species of canines, such as wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs.  These species normally do not interbreed, but this is because of lack of opportunity, rather than lack of ability.  The coywolf is proof they are still all one kind, and can interbreed if the opportunity arises.

An interesting aspect of its urban lifestyle is that coywolves will eat garden produce, such as pumpkins and watermelons, as well as preying on domestic animals, and scavenging discarded food. This is a reminder that all animals started out as vegetarian, (Genesis 1:30), and only took up meat-eating as they and the environment degenerated.

Has the coywolf evolved?

Although the coywolf is different from coyotes, wolves and dogs, it is not an example of evolution. It does not have any new structures or functions that don’t exist in other canines.  It is simply the result of remixing of already existing canine genes that had been separated in the past.

Image: Coyote, Canis latrans, Public Domain

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About The Contributor

Diane Eager