Eastern coyote

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Eastern coyote
Coyote-face-snow - Virginia - ForestWander.jpg
An eastern coyote in the snow near the West Virginia-Virginia state line.
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Subtribe: Canina
Genus: Canis

The eastern coyote (Canis latrans var.) is a wild North American canine of both coyote and wolf parentage. The hybridization likely first occurred in the Great Lakes region, as western coyotes moved east. It was first noticed during the early 1930s to the late 1940s, and likely originated in the aftermath of the extirpation of the gray wolf in southeastern Ontario, Labrador and Quebec, thus allowing coyotes to colonize the former wolf ranges and mix with the remnant wolf populations. [1] [2] This hybrid is smaller than the eastern wolf and holds smaller territories, but is larger and holds more extensive home ranges than the typical western coyote. [1]


Taxonomy and evolution

The canid has been referred to in scientific publications as Canis latrans, Canis latrans var., [3] and Canis latrans × Canis lycaon, and has been commonly referred to as the eastern coyote, northeastern coyote, and coywolf. [4] :Table 1b It is also called the southern tweed wolf. [5]

Coyotes and wolves first hybridized in the Great Lakes region, followed by a hybrid coyote expansion that created the largest mammalian hybrid zone known. [6] In 2014, a DNA study of northeastern coyotes showed them on average to be a hybrid of western coyote (62%), western wolf (14%), eastern wolf (13%), and domestic dog (11%) in their nuclear genome. The hybrid swarm extended into the midwestern United States, with Ohio coyotes shown on average to be a hybrid of western coyote (66%), western wolf (11%), eastern wolf (12%), and domestic dog (10%) in their nuclear genome. [7]

For northeastern coyotes, hybridization with the dog was estimated to have occurred between 11 and 24 generations ago, and there is no evidence of recent dog-coyote crossing. There was some evidence of first and second generation wolf-coyote hybrids back-crossing with coyotes. For Ohio coyotes, the wolf DNA was present in the nuclear genome but not the mitochondrial genome, indicating hybridization between male wolves and female coyotes. For northeastern coyotes, the dog DNA was present in the nuclear genome but not the mitochondrial genome, indicating hybridization between male dogs and female coyotes. Although hundreds of northeastern coyotes showed maternal wolf DNA, nearly all were the same haplotype that indicated a past single hybridization between a female wolf and a male coyote. These findings support the hypothesis of sexual interaction based on body size, with the larger species male almost always crossing with the smaller species female. [7]

Northeast coyotes benefit from a more diverse genome that includes genes from both wolves and dogs, which has likely allowed their adaption to both forested and human-dominated habitats. Coyotes moved into the northeast after they began to hybridize with wolves between 154 and 190 years ago. Coyotes are more genetically wolf-like in areas where a high deer density exists, supporting the theory that introgression from wolves allowed genetic adaption to this food source. There are an estimated 1620 million white-tailed deer in the United States, and their overpopulation is estimated to cause $2 billion in damage each year, with $1 billion in automobile damage alone. Management practices should consider the ecological value of large predators in maintaining their balance. [7]

In 2016, a proposal was made to recognize the eastern coyote as a separate species due to its morphologic and genetic distinctiveness. Additionally, it has bred with other northeastern coyotes across the majority of its range, without further hybridization with any of the parent species, except for on the edges of this range. Its range includes areas where the western coyote would find it difficult to survive. The designation Canis oriens (Latin for "eastern canid") has been proposed (along with "coywolf") in place of the unwieldy Canis latrans × Canis lycaon × Canis lupus. [4]


Skulls of a western coyote and an eastern coyote. Canis latrans texensis vs Canis latrans "var.".jpg
Skulls of a western coyote and an eastern coyote.

Adult eastern coyotes are larger than western coyotes, weighing an average of 20–25 kilograms (45–55 lb), with female eastern coyotes weighing 21% less than male western coyotes. [8] [1] [9] Eastern coyotes also weigh more at birth, 349–360 grams to 250–300 grams. By 35 days of age eastern coyote pups average 1,590 grams, 200 grams more than western pups. After this, physical differences become more apparent, with eastern coyote pups displaying longer legs. Differences in dental development have also been observed, with tooth eruption beginning later and in a different order. [10]

There are no significant differences between eastern and western coyote pups in expressions of aggression and fighting, though eastern coyotes tend to fight less and are more playful. Unlike western pups, in which fighting precedes play behavior, fighting among east pups occurs after the onset of play. [10] Eastern coyotes tend to reach sexual maturity when they reach two years of age, much later than western coyotes. [1]

Aside from size, both eastern and western coyotes are physically similar; each have erect ears, a straight and bushy tail, a conspicuous supracaudal gland and a narrow chest. The eastern has four color phases, ranging from dark brown to blond or reddish blond, with gray-brown the most common, and reddish legs, ears and flanks. [11]


The eastern coyote is present in New England, New York, [12] New Jersey, Maine, [13] Pennsylvania, [14] Ohio, [15] West Virginia, [16] Maryland, [17] Delaware, [18] Virginia, [19] and Washington, D.C.. They also range in the eastern Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, [20] Nova Scotia, [21] Prince Edward Island [22] , and Newfoundland and Labrador. [23]


Eastern coyotes are opportunistic omnivores and will prey on whatever is available and easy to kill or scavenge. Though they are known to take anything from mice to moose, [24] the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources lists their main prey items as rabbits, hares, and deer in the winter and small mammals, wild berries, birds, amphibians, and grasshoppers in the summer. [25]

Their diet shifts with the changing seasons. It can include, but is not limited to, insects and berries during the summer and small mammals in the fall and winter. As winter becomes harder later in the season, larger game such as the white-tailed deer become targeted. They often hunt in pairs, though deer killed by vehicles or by natural causes are more frequently scavenged. Researchers from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry examined animal carcasses visited by radio-collared coyotes during the winter and summer of 2008–09. During the winter, only 8% of adult deer had been killed conclusively by eastern coyotes. The remaining 92% were scavenged by coyotes after being killed by vehicles or receiving other injuries. The adult deer that were taken had severe preexisting injuries, and were likely to die from other causes in the absence of coyote predation. In spring, fawns are targeted instead. [26] [27] [28] [29]

See also

Related Research Articles

Coyote Species of canine native to North America

The coyote is a species of canine native to North America. It is smaller than its close relative, the gray wolf, and slightly smaller than the closely related eastern wolf and red wolf. It fills much of the same ecological niche as the golden jackal does in Eurasia, though it is larger and more predatory, and it is sometimes called the American jackal by zoologists. Other names for the species, largely historical, include the prairie wolf and the brush wolf.

Canidae Family of mammals

Canidae is a biological family of dog-like carnivorans. A member of this family is called a canid. There are three subfamilies found within the canid family, which are the extinct Borophaginae and Hesperocyoninae, and the extant Caninae. The Caninae are known as canines, which includes domestic dogs, wolves, foxes and other extant and extinct species.

Subspecies of <i>Canis lupus</i> List of subspecies of the grey wolf

There are 38 subspecies of Canis lupus listed in the taxonomic authority Mammal Species of the World. These subspecies were named over the past 250 years, and since their naming, a number of them have gone extinct. The nominate subspecies is the Eurasian wolf Canis lupus lupus.

Jackal Several species of the wolf genus of mammals

Jackals are medium-sized omnivorous mammals of the genus Canis, a genus which also includes wolves and the domestic dog. While the word "jackal" has historically been used for many small canids, in modern use it most commonly refers to three species: the closely related black-backed jackal and side-striped jackal of sub-Saharan Africa, and the golden jackal of south-central Eurasia, which is more closely related to other members of the genus Canis.

Red wolf subspecies of mammal

The red wolf is a canine native to the southeastern United States which has a reddish-tawny color to its fur. Morphologically it is intermediate between the coyote and gray wolf, and is very closely related to the eastern wolf of eastern Canada.

Wolf Type of canine

The wolf, also known as the gray wolf or grey wolf, is a large canine native to Eurasia and North America. More than thirty subspecies of Canis lupus have been recognized, and gray wolves, as colloquially understood, comprise non-domestic/feral subspecies. The wolf is the largest extant member of Canidae, males averaging 40 kg (88 lb) and females 37 kg (82 lb). Wolves measure 105–160 cm (41–63 in) in length and 80–85 cm (31–33 in) at shoulder height. The wolf is also distinguished from other Canis species by its less pointed ears and muzzle, as well as a shorter torso and a longer tail. The wolf is nonetheless related closely enough to smaller Canis species, such as the coyote and the golden jackal, to produce fertile hybrids with them. The banded fur of a wolf is usually mottled white, brown, gray, and black, although subspecies in the arctic region may be nearly all white.

<i>Canis</i> genus of mammals

Canis is a genus of the Caninae containing multiple extant species, such as wolves, dogs, coyotes and jackals. Species of this genus are distinguished by their moderate to large size, their massive, well-developed skulls and dentition, long legs, and comparatively short ears and tails.

Wolfdog Dog breed

A wolfdog is a canine produced by the mating of a domestic dog with a gray wolf, eastern wolf, red wolf, or Ethiopian wolf to produce a hybrid.

Eastern wolf subspecies of mammal

The eastern wolf, also known as the timber wolf, Algonquin wolf or eastern timber wolf, is a type of wolf native to the Great Lakes region and southeastern Canada, considered to be either a unique subspecies of gray wolf or a separate species from the gray wolf. Many studies have found the eastern wolf to be the product of ancient and recent genetic admixture between the gray wolf and the coyote, while other studies have found some or all populations of the eastern wolf, as well as coyotes, originally separated from a common ancestor with the wolf over 1 million years ago and that these populations of the eastern wolf may be the same species as or a closely related species to the red wolf of the Southeastern United States. Regardless of its status, it is regarded as unique and therefore worthy of conservation with Canada citing the population in eastern Canada as being the eastern wolf population subject to protection.

Ethiopian wolf species of mammal

The Ethiopian wolf, also known as the Simien jackal or Simien fox, is a canid native to the Ethiopian Highlands. It is similar to the coyote in size and build, and is distinguished by its long and narrow skull, and its red and white fur. Unlike most large canids, which are widespread, generalist feeders, the Ethiopian wolf is a highly specialised feeder of Afroalpine rodents with very specific habitat requirements. It is one of the world's rarest canids, and Africa's most endangered carnivore.

Golden jackal wolf-like canid that is native to Southeast Europe, Asia and Arabia

The golden jackal is a wolf-like canid that is native to Southeast Europe, Southwest Asia, South Asia, and regions of Southeast Asia. Compared with the Arabian wolf, which is the smallest of the gray wolves, the jackal is smaller and possesses shorter legs, a shorter tail, a more elongated torso, a less-prominent forehead, and a narrower and more pointed muzzle. The golden jackal's coat can vary in color from a pale creamy yellow in summer to a dark tawny beige in winter. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List due to its widespread distribution and high density in areas with plenty of available food and optimum shelter.

Coydog hybrid mammal

A coydog is a canid hybrid resulting from a mating between a male coyote and a female dog. The term is sometimes mistakenly used for coywolves, which are common in northeastern North America, whereas true coydogs are only occasionally found in the wild. A study found that when a coyote met a dog, the reaction was either antagonistic or equally as likely to lead to bouts of play.

Coywolf Hybrid mammal

Coywolf is an informal term for a canid hybrid descended from coyotes, eastern wolves and gray wolves. All members of the genus Canis are genetically closely related with 78 chromosomes, therefore they can interbreed. One genetic study indicates that these two species genetically diverged relatively recently. Genomic studies indicate that nearly all North American gray wolf populations possess some degree of admixture with coyotes following a geographic cline, with the lowest levels occurring in Alaska, and the highest in Ontario and Quebec, as well as Atlantic Canada.

Pack (canine) social group of conspecific canids

Pack is a social group of conspecific canids. Not all species of canids form packs; for example, small canids like the red fox do not. Pack size and social behaviour within packs varies across species.

Mexican wolf the smallest living subspecies of grey wolf in North America

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Canid hybrids are the result of interbreeding between different species of the "true dog" tribe Canini, specifically in the Canina subtribe of wolf-like canids. They often occur in the wild, in particular between domestic or feral dogs and wild native canids.

Origin of the domestic dog Aspect of history

The origin of the domestic dog includes the dog's genetic divergence from the wolf, its domestication, and its development into dog types and dog breeds. The dog is a member of the wolf-like canids and was the first species and the only large carnivore to have been domesticated. Genetic studies show that dogs and modern wolves display reciprocal monophyly, which implies that dogs are not genetically close to any living wolf population and that the wild ancestor of the dog is extinct. An extinct Late Pleistocene wolf may have been the ancestor of the dog, with the dog's similarity to the extant grey wolf being the result of genetic admixture between the two. In 2020, a literature review of canid domestication stated that modern dogs were not descended from the same Canis lineage as modern wolves, and proposes that dogs may be descended from a Pleistocene wolf closer in size to a village dog.

Jackal–dog hybrid

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African golden wolf One of the only two wolf species in Africa, along with the Ethiopian wolf

The African golden wolf is a canine native to North Africa and the Horn of Africa. It is the descendant of a genetically admixed canid of 72% gray wolf and 28% Ethiopian wolf ancestry. It occurs in Senegal, Nigeria, Chad, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Kenya and Egypt, and in Tanzania. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. In the Atlas Mountains, it was sighted in elevations as high as 1,800 m (5,900 ft). It is primarily a predator, targeting invertebrates and mammals as large as gazelle fawns, though larger animals are sometimes taken. Its diet also includes animal carcasses, human refuse, and fruit. The African golden wolf is a monogamous and territorial species, offspring remain with the family to assist in raising their parents' younger pups.

Evolution of the wolf overview about the evolution of the wolf

The evolution of the wolf occurred over a geologic time scale of at least 300 thousand years. The grey wolf Canis lupus is a highly adaptable species that is able to exist in a range of environments and which possesses a wide distribution across the Holarctic. Studies of modern grey wolves have identified distinct sub-populations that live in close proximity to each other. This variation in sub-populations is closely linked to differences in habitat – precipitation, temperature, vegetation, and prey specialization – which affect cranio-dental plasticity.


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Further reading