America has a new predator living in its forests, and while the parks department may dispute their existence, the coyote/wolf hybrid known as the coywolf is very real, according to The Washington Post.
"We've known for a while that most Eastern coyotes are hybrids to some degree, and now we're finding a greater degree of hybridization than anyone expected," Stony Brook University researcher Javier Monzon said, explaining the lineage of a predator that has been spotted in areas as urbane as Washington, D.C's Rock Creek Park.
According to a 2013 paper that Monzon published, coywolves are about 62 percent coyote, 27 percent wolf, and 11 percent dog, a pedigree that gives them an unparallelled advantage in urban areas. Smaller than wolves, yet upwards of 20 pounds heavier than most coyotes, coywolves are small enough to avoid notice amongst humans, yet large enough to prey on animals that coyotes can't, such as fawns. "The more deer there are around, the more wolf-like the coywolves tend to be," Monzon says, pointing out that coywolves are uniquely adapted for the I-95 corridor where they have been sighted.
Though the D.C. Parks Department disputes the existence of the creatures, coywolves have been the subject of an hour long PBS documentary, Indefinitely Wild reports. Megan Draheim, a professor at Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources, points out that some officials shy away from the term coywolf, as it sounds frightening. The moniker isn't her favorite to describe the predators either:
"To be a coywolf sounds like half-coyote, half-wolf, and that's not really what we're talking about. We are talking about coyotes that have interbred with timber wolves and have some wolf genes in them. It can be fairly negligible or it can be more."28-year-old conservationist Gareth Wishart asserts that he has witnessed coywolves on two occasions, both in Rock Creek Park. "Their size is really noticeable - how much bigger they are than coyotes out west," Wishart points out. He alleges that coywolves "are much stockier and you can notice the difference in the size of their skull."
A recent Inquisitr report detailed a study which concluded that pack animals, such as the wolf and coyote, communicate most effectively with others through their eyes. While there is no way to know if this applies to coywolves due to genetics, predators possessing genes from both species have now been found in areas as far east as Ohio. Monzon suggest that this means that the predators have not only moved south into D.C., but that coywolves may now be heading back westward.
[Images via Indefinitely Wild]