In the last century, the niche left by the decimation of the eastern wolf has been increasingly filled by a new canid that has both coyote and wolf genes. These hybrids can be twice the weight of purebred coyotes. With larger jaws, more muscle and faster legs, individual coywolves can take down small deer. I have seen western coyotes in Oklahoma, California, and Colorado and western coyotes are much scrawnier.
Extensive hunting of gray wolves over a period of 400 years caused a population decline that reduced the number of suitable mates, thus facilitating coyotes interbreeding with the eastern wolf population sometime in the early 1900’s. Coyotes had been moving east during that time as the cougars and wolves that had prevented their eastern migration had been wiped out by civilization. The main nucleus of pure eastern wolves is currently concentrated within Algonquin Provincial Park and there has been some speculation that slightly south of this is where the majority of cross breeding of the eastern wolf and the coyote occurred to create the “coywolf”. This is kind of a misnomer as 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, but the highest in Ontario and Quebec as well as Atlantic Canada. Many have taken to calling this hybrid simply the “Eastern Coyote”. It is too much of a rapidly changing hybrid to be called a separate species.
It is not uncommon for dog genes to also be in the mix. Coyotes in the Northeast are mostly (60%-84%) coyote, with lesser amounts of wolf (8%-25%) and dog (8%-11%). Coyotes further south have higher percentages of dog genes.

Return to Algonquin Provincial Park