Wolf in Coyote Clothing?


There were three shots from muzzle loaders heard high on a hill in Southern NH a few weeks back, and not far from me on opening day of Muzzle Loader season. As I hunted my way toward the shots, I found no hunters, and no deer on the ground. two more shots rang out from smoke poles in the distance. Two hunters at least, I mused.  An hour later, I ran into a hunter that had friends in the woods in a different area who were after a big whiley Buck living in the swamp, swale-grass, and brush and brambles so thick you could not see 5 yards. Good luck to them, I thought.  We talked a bit as hunters often do when we meet while on stand. Shhh, my new hunting friend said, “Did you hear that” Yes, I could distinctly hear a Coyote howl in the far distance, perhaps on the trail of a wounded deer.  Hey, I said, “from those shots up on the hill”. You bet! Coyotes eat mice and voles and turkeys, and pets, when they can’t kill a deer, their preferred food.

I first published this article in a shorter form in Hawkeye News in New Hampshire and expanded it here for NH Rifleman readers. Recent genetic DNA evidence proves the Northeast Coyote is not coyote at all but part coyote and part wolf.  Yes you heard that right part Wolf, try 1/3 wolf or more and increasing. “Eastern coyotes typically weigh 30-50 pounds and are 48-60 inches long, approximately twice the size of their close relative, the western coyote. Eastern coyotes have long legs, thick fur, a pointy snout, a drooping bushy black-tipped tail and range in color from a silvery gray to a grizzled, brownish red. The average life span of a wild coyote is four years. (Less, if I have the opportunity) Though coyotes are often mistaken for a domestic dog hybrid, recent genetic research has attributed the eastern coyote’s larger size and unique behavioral characteristics to interbreeding with Canadian gray wolves. Unlike the wolf or domestic dog, coyotes run with their tail pointing down.”

As part of my research I learned that there are basically two species of wolf in the world, the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) and the Red Wolf (Canis rufus) and both can mate and produce offspring hybrids (mixes) of wolf.  Furthermore they can mate and produce offspring with the eastern Coyote (Canis latrans var) as you will see later.  For Scientists, this new DNA data is throwing a curveball at them.  Example: was the eastern Coyote really Canis latrans and later to become Canis latrans var. a hybrid Coywolf instead. Var. is for Variation.

New studies demonstrate that the Coyote is in the midst of an “adaptive evolution” according to a fully released February 2010 article published by Royal Society Publishing in a format called “Biology Letters” and entitled “Rapid adaptive evolution of northeastern coyotes via hybridization with wolves” by Roland Kays, Abigail Curtis, and Jeremy Kirchman see web site http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org . I quote under the header Discussion in the article:

 The ecological differences between western and northeastern coyotes, on average, are that northeastern animals eat more deer (Odocoileus sp.) but fewer small mammals (Parker 1995), and show no avoidance of forested habitats (Kays et al. 2008). The larger body size of northeastern coyotes is widely accepted as advantageous for hunting large prey, but there has been debate about the origin of this variation through hybridization versus phenotypic plasticity (Lariviere & Crete 1993; Peterson & Thurber 1993). Our results show that northeastern coyote populations are a hybrid swarm resulting from the widespread introgression of GLW (Great Lakes Wolf) genes. This suggests that hybridization introduced genetic variation for the rapid adaptation of more efficient predation on deer, including larger predator body size and skull dimensions. This is further supported by our finding that northeastern coyotes were larger than those from Ohio, which are living in similar eastern forests, but have not hybridized with wolves. Mitochondrial genes are surely not responsible for the large body size, so the observed associations of particular haplotypes with skull morphology suggest that this hybrid swarm is young.”

Further quotes: “Northeastern coyote skulls are not simply larger versions of their western relatives, but show additional craniodental characteristics similar to wolves, supporting the hypothesis of the introgression of genetic variation; northeastern skulls are proportionally broader, with greater areas of attachment for masticatory musculature. In large-prey hunters, such as wolves, these traits are associated with strong bite forces and resistance to the mechanical stresses imposed by large, struggling prey (Slater et al. 2009). Furthermore, the sexual dimorphism we found in northeastern coyotes is absent in western coyotes, but similar to that reported for wolves (Gittleman & Van Valkenburgh 1997). We suggest that these traits confer similar adaptive advantages in northeastern coyotes and allow them to be more proficient in the capture of deer than western and Ohio coyotes. These adaptations presumably allowed the rapid movement of coyote-wolves through Ontario, in comparison with the slower colonization rate of the smaller non-hybridized coyotes across Ohio.”

So what does this information mean to me as a hunter?  It means this Coywolf is a highly adaptive aggressive Canid is on a continuing evolutionary path that places it in direct competition for deer meat in my freezer and whatever else it wants to eat.  If you did not hunt coywolves this year then don’t cry and whine that you didn’t see any deer to shoot this fall.  Get off your duff and go hunt some coywolves. If you want to continue to call them yotes then fine, just remember your “yote” is part wolf and if your deer is down this fall don’t be surprised to see “yotes” devouring it if you don’t find it right away. It has happened to me and I was not a happy hunter that day. All that was left after a nine hour overnight was the spine.

I am not a regular predator hunter but it is increasingly important to hunt these Coyotes with wolf genetics as they have made a highly significant impact in the reduction of spring fawn crops of the eastern whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus ). But you can’t relax one bit because they adapt by having more litters.

So, it is not just fun to hunt these adaptive critters, but that we compete for the same venison. In larger packs or by themselves these wild candid’s will kill domestic pets even while the pet owner takes the dog or cat for a potty call even while on a leash.

Given the fact that they eat my freezer meat, I want to introduce them to a fast rifle bullet along the way and plan to winter hunt these critters.  Rifles and cartridges that can kill a coyote cleanly are plentiful, in fact any deer rifle will do, but there has always been a following for really fast stuff like a 100 grain .270 shooting 3200 fps down to the .22 Long Rifle. I have a .257 Roberts that I have garnered for such an occasion.  It shoots sub-sub moa groups consistently at 100 yards and at about 3000 fps at the muzzle a 100 grain pills maximum point blank range is 290 yards when zeroed at around 250 yards. That means that any yote out to almost 300 yards is a gonner when struck by a pill still whooping along at 2300 fps and 1100 ft-lbs of energy at that distance.  Perhaps the best Coyote rifle is an AR platform in say a .223 that will take down more than one yote at a time with no discernible recoil between shots. Many traditional hunters stay with traditional rifles. I am one of those. Coyote pelts can be frozen if prepared properly, and then sent out for tanning. I have used pickling alum on some deer hides and would work well here, aside of professional tanning. Good Hunting! Ed  ©

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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.