Coywolf FAQ

Welcome to our compendium of links. Because the answer to each question is detailed, most of the answers don’t fit well into a written summary. Instead, we’ll give you a very brief overview of the answer followed by a series of curated, high quality links where you can do your own investigation. Enjoy!

We are constantly updating our information as we learn and as new studies come out. If you have a coyote or coywolf-related question, email us: canadacoywolf at gmail.com.

FAQ

What is a coywolf? What is an eastern coyote?
How are eastern coyotes and western coyotes different?
What do they look like?
What should I do if I encounter a coyote or coywolf?
Is it OK to feed a coyote?
Are coywolves more dangerous?
Do coyotes/coywolves carry rabies?
How big do coyotes/coywolves get?
What do coyotes and coywolves eat?
What are the breeding habits of coyotes and coywolves?
Can coyotes be kept as pets?
I feed feral cats and lately coyotes are showing up in my backyard. Now what?
How many coyotes are there living in a given area?
What is their social behaviour like?
What do their different types of howls mean?
How can coyotes live in the city? Are they dangerous?
Are bounties and predator killing contests effective?

What is a coywolf? What is an eastern coyote?

A coywolf is a hybrid canid between a coyote and any of the three North American wolf species; that being the gray wolves, res wolves, and eastern timber wolves.
Hybridizations between coyotes and wolves are possible due to them being closely related species that share a common North American ancestry, although the gray wolves are of Eurasian origin. – contributed by Lucas Fong

Eastern coyotes are North American hybrid canids native to the northeastern US and the eastern provinces of Canada. Their Canadian range is from the eastern Manitoba to the Atlantic provinces. These hybrids originated from past interbreedings between the northeastern coyotes (Canis latrans thamnos) and the eastern timber wolves (Canis lycaon) of Ontario and Quebec. While the maritime gray wolves are not known to readily hybridize with pure coyotes, it is possible that their genes may had been bridged into some of the eastern coyotes’ genepools via the eastern timber wolves who have been known to hybridize with both coyotes and various gray wolf subspecies endemic to the Great Lakes region, northern Ontario, and parts of Quebec. However, the eastern coyotes are believed to have historically backcrossed extensively with pure coyotes migrating in from the west which is partially why they have been called such although in recent years more researchers are preferring the term “coywolf” (coywolves for plural) over eastern coyotes due to the present of wolf contents in these hybrids. – contributed by Lucas Fong

LINKS

“Long Skinny Legs, Pointy Nose, Yellow Eyes = Coyotes”
Video: Meet The Coywolf
Coywolf Basic Info
What Is a Coywolf?
Evolution of a coywolf, and range expansion

How are eastern coyotes and western coyotes different?

One of the most noticeable differences is the size of the eastern coyote or “northeastern coywolf” compared to the pure coyotes in the west. In this case, eastern coyotes are much larger than pure coyotes. However, there is a lot more beyond these factors. Eastern coyotes, who are hybrids of coyotes and wolves, often form larger packs and hold more extensively territories than western coyotes. They are also capable of taking down white-tailed deer fawns although they mostly subsist on small preys. Also, eastern coyotes have a much thicker layered coat during the winter than their western coyote cousins. This list goes on but we will highlight some of the more in-depth features later of these northeastern coywolves. – contributed by Lucas Fong

LINKS

Image: Western coyote vs. Eastern coyote skulls
Meet the Coywolf: Wolf/Coyote/Coywolf: A Comparison
Eastern Coyote by Roland Kays

What do they look like?

From the Vermont Fact Sheet on eastern coyotes:

“There is considerable variation in coat color. The face is gray with a muzzle that is dark or
reddish along the sides. There is a black line behind the eyes, soft reddish fur behind the ears
extending to the neck, and white or cream-colored fur under the chin and throat. The body is most often a brownish-gray with a dark line that runs along the back. The sides are usually dark, and the underbelly is white or cream-colored. The legs usually have a dark stripe partly down the front of the forelegs. Occasionally, this coloration occurs on the front of
the rear legs as well. Outer sides and rear portions of both front and rear legs appear quite
reddish, and this coloration sometimes extends onto the flanks. Feet are usually light or buff in color, but occasionally they are reddish around the toes. The bushy tail is gray above and
lighter below. The upper side of the tail has a black spot one third of the way down from the base and the tail is tipped in black. The tail is about 13 inches long, and in comparison with a German shepherd, it is shorter and bushier. The body length of Eastern coyotes averages between 42 and 55 inches, however, females rarely exceed 48 inches. The ears are large, pointed and well furred.”

LINKS

Vermont Fact Sheet – Coyote
Withywindle Nature: Eastern Coyote Morphology
Eastern Coyote – Department of Natural Resources
The Coyote in New York State

What should I do if I encounter a coyote or coywolf?

Keep pets inside or leashed. Do not feed wildlife. Make lots of noise and wave your arms, making yourself appear bigger, to scare off the coyote. A coyote that is afraid of people is much more likely to live a safe, happy life! Remember: a fed coyote is a dead coyote.

LINKS

What You Can Do
The Humane Society of the United States – Coyote Hazing: Guidelines for Discouraging Neighbourhood Coyotes
Coyote safety tips for urban neighborhoods
Living With “God’s Dog”
How to Protect Your Dog From Coyotes
Coyote Yipps – Safety Around Coyotes; PLUS Behaviors To Be Aware of If You Have A Dog
Why Is There A Coyote In My Yard? Food Lures and Other Answers

Is it OK to feed a coyote?

Are you a zookeeper or a licensed breeder? If not, the answer is an emphatic NO! We’re not trying to be mean to you. The reality is that fed coyotes will get used to people, which means that someone will eventually report this fed coyote for approaching too closed, feeling threatened and not knowing its history of being fed by people. A fed coyote will be shot “humanely” by wildlife officials. Don’t do it.

If you want to appreciate coyotes, then visit a zoo or sanctuary, or “shoot” them through a long telephoto lens while letting wild coyotes be wild. We encourage you to share your urban coyote encounters with us, but please don’t put them at risk of death by feeding them!

LINKS

Urban Coyote Research: Five Easy Steps To Avoid Conflict With Coyotes
Keep Me Wild – Coyotes
Coyote Yipps – A Fed Coyote Is A Dead Coyote

Are coywolves more dangerous?

No. Anything you’ve heard otherwise is fearmongering nonsense probably started by people who know nothing about wolves or coyotes or how to safely coexist with them. If you doubt that statement, then email us (canadacoywolf at gmail.com) with actual quantifiable, proven facts about eastern coyote or coywolf attacks on people and we’d be happy to break it down for you and show you exactly why it’s distorted and incorrect. The media has a heyday with “dangerous coywolves”. It’s just the newest wave of wolf hysteria, like the anti-wolf hysteria that led to the extermination of the wolf from the lower 48 states. From the documentary Meet The Coywolf: “Coywolf attacks on people are extremely rare. Like its coyote cousin, coywolves are usually wary of humans and avoid people whenever possible. Consider that dogs kill 15 to 20 people each year in the U.S., and that there have only been two fatal coyote attacks in North America in the past 500 years.”

Anything you read to the contrary is irresponsible, anti-scientific, mindless nonsense. Don’t believe what you hear secondhand from fear-mongering webpages, or from the irresponsible media. Shame on those people for starting what is essentially Anti-Wolf Hysteria 2014.

LINKS

Meet The Coywolf: Urban Coywolf Guide
Way: Coyotes Are Here To Stay

Do coyotes/coywolves carry rabies?

They can be a rabies vector species, but it is rare. The Ontario MNR states: “A common concern expressed is whether coyotes carry the rabies virus. Rabies is rare in coyotes in Ontario. Coyotes are not the main carriers of the disease among wild animals. They may actually help reduce the incidence of rabies in Ontario since they often prey on foxes, a species more likely to carry the disease. It is even more likely for a human to be exposed to rabies through dogs or cats than coyotes.” The Ontario chapter of the Sierra Club states: “It is very rare for a coyote to be a carrier of rabies. Actually, they account for less than 1% of all diagnosed incidents of wildlife rabies cases in Ontario over the past 40 years.”

LINKS

MNR Urban Coyote Pamphlet
Getting to Know Ontario’s Wildlife: The Coyote
Discover Southern Ontario: Coyotes (Canis latrans)

How big do coyotes/coywolves get?

New Hampshire Fish and Game states: “Eastern coyotes typically weigh 30-50 pounds and are 48-60 inches long, approximately twice the size of their close relative, the western coyote.”

The Adirondack Wildlife page states:

“Eastern coyotes are significantly larger than western coyotes, with weight ranges of 35 to 45 lbs. for adults, and up to 60 lbs. for large males. In fact, contrary to the rule that correlates larger wolf size with more northerly latitude, there appears to be a more important longitudinal size difference between western coyotes and eastern coyotes: the farther east one looks, the larger the coyotes, such that a female eastern coyote is considerably larger than a western male.”

Regarding the way coywolf or eastern coyote sizes are frequently misrepresented:

“The average male wolf is about 90 lbs., with natural selection rewarding slightly larger mass, the further north they occur, and the colder the climate. In addition, wolves have longer legs than coyotes, as well as broader feet and a more massive head, with less pointed ears and a more prominent muzzle. Still, most wildlife sightings are sudden, unexpected and brief, so it’s easy to see how folks could exaggerate in their minds the size of a fleeing coyote, and conclude that they have seen a wolf. I once had a friend describe another acquaintance’s malamute, spotted while it was streaking through her yard, as being significantly larger than our wolf hybrid, Cree, while I knew for a fact that Cree was ten pounds heavier. In addition, wolves and coyotes both look much thinner and rangier in Summer than they do in Winter, due to the shedding of the Winter coat, so time of year can give a very different impression of size, even in the same animal.”

LINKS

Adirondack Wildlife: Coywolf
Eastern coyote: New Hampshire Fish and Game

What do coyotes and coywolves eat?

“Coyotes are versatile in their eating habits. They are carnivorous; 90% of their diet is mammalian. They eat primarily small mammals, such as eastern cottontail rabbits, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, and white-footed mice. They occasionally eat birds, snakes, large insects and other large invertebrates. They prefer fresh meat, but they consume large amounts of carrion. Part of what makes coyotes so successful at living in so many different places is the fact that they will eat almost anything, including human trash and household pets in suburban areas. Plants eaten include leaves of balsam fir and white cedar, sasparilla, strawberry, and apple. Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the diet of coyotes in the fall and winter months. Coyotes hunt animals in interesting ways. When on a “mousing” expedition, they slowly stalk through the grass and sniff out the mouse. Suddenly, with all four legs held stiffly together, the coyotes stiffen and pounce on the prey. Hunting deer, on the other hand, calls for teamwork. Coyotes may take turns pursuing the deer until it tires, or they may drive it towards a hidden member of the pack. Coyotes sometimes form ‘hunting partnerships’ with badgers. Because coyotes aren’t very effective at digging rodents out of their burrows, they chase the animals while they’re above ground. Badgers do not run quickly, but are well-adapted to digging rodents out of burrows. When both hunt together they effectively leave no escape for prey in the area. The average distance covered in a night’s hunting is 4 km.

“Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; carrion ; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms. Plant Foods: leaves; fruit.”

LINKS

ADW: Canis latrans: INFORMATION

What are the breeding habits of coyotes and coywolves?

“Courtship lasts for approximately 2 to 3 months. Female coyotes are monoestrous and are in heat for 2 to 5 days between late January and late March. Mating occurs within these 3 months. Once the female chooses a partner, the mates may remain paired for a number of years, but not necessarily for life.

Mating System: monogamous

Spermatogenesis in males takes around 54 days and occurs between January and February depending on geographic location. Gestation lasts from 60 to 63 days. Litter size ranges from 1 to 19 pups; the average is 6. The pups weigh approximately 250 grams. The young are born blind, limp-eared and pug-nosed. After 10 days the eyes open, the pups weigh 600 grams and their ears begin to erect in true coyote fashion. Twenty-one to 28 days after birth, the young begin to emerge from the den and by 35 days they are fully weaned. They are fed regurgitated food by both parents. Male pups disperse from the dens between months 6 and 9, while females usually stay with the parents and form the basis of the pack. Adult size is reached between 9 and 12 months. Sexual maturity is reached by 12 months. Coyotes hybridize with domestic dogs and occasionally with gray wolves.

Breeding interval: Coyotes usually breed once each year.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs from January to March.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 19
Average number of offspring: 5.7
Range gestation period: 50 to 65 days
Range weaning age: 35 to 49 days
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 9 to 10 months
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 9 to 10 months

Female coyotes gestate and nurse their young. Both male and female coyotes bring food to their young after they are weaned and protect their offspring. The young sometimes stay with the pack into adulthood and learn how to hunt during a learning period.”

LINKS

ADW: Canis latrans: INFORMATION
Photo Gallery: Coyotes Raising Kids in San Francisco

Can coyotes be kept as pets?

Generally not a good idea unless you’re a researcher or a zookeeper, or someone who has tons of acreage for a coyote to run around in. Coyotes are not dogs. At best, they are your equal, and they will demand to be treated as such. Please DO NOT take in a coyote as a pet unless you have permission from your state or province, and provided you know what you’re getting into! We can’t emphasize that point enough! Generally, wildlife should NOT be kept as pets, or even in captivity.

There are lots of cute “pet coyote” videos on Youtube. Keep in mind that some people also keep “pet” tigers and “pet” alligators. Coyotes require lots of care and specialized knowledge. After the caretaker finds out that a coyote is nothing like a dog, the coyote might be euthanized. Very few people are capable of keeping coyotes as companion animals. Do you want a pet that will never accept your authority? That will destroy your furniture? That will always try to outsmart you?

That all being said, it is possible. A few examples of coyotes as pets follow.

LINKS

It’s Baby Coyote Season [Wildlife rehabilitation, cautions against pet coyotes]
The Daily Coyote
Wiley the Coyote [Youtube video]
Scooter helping people learn to appreciate coyotes
The eight-year-old Wisconsin girl who has a pet coyote called Wiley

I feed feral cats and lately coyotes are showing up in my backyard. Now what?

Feeding cats is likely to attract bigger predators over time. If you care about your local cat population, please support a local spay/neuter catch and release program, or become a foster parent. Once wildlife like raccoons and coyotes arrive on your land, they think it’s “their” territory, and removing them humanely will be difficult. You can try to haze the coyotes with the usual coyote hazing techniques, i.e. scaring them with your physical presence and by making as much noise as possible, but we can’t guarantee a method of permanently repelling coyotes from your area other than removing the source of food.

The Humane Society of the United States recommends the following strategies:

> Protecting feral cat colonies

“People who feed feral cats are often concerned that coyotes might prey on the cats. These concerns are well founded, as coyotes will be attracted to both the outdoor pet food and the cats themselves as prey. Here are some general suggestions for keeping such cats safer:

-Feed cats only during the day and at a set time—and pick up any leftovers immediately
-Provide escape routes for cats
-In treeless or open areas, erect “cat posts”—long pieces of wood (four inches by four inches or corner posts) that stand out of the ground at least ten to twelve feet. These can be climbed by cats but not by coyotes
-Elevate feeding stations beyond coyotes’—but not the cats’—reach
-Discourage/harass coyotes seen on the property. Go after them aggressively, using the techniques described in our coyote hazing guidelines. Making them feel uncomfortable will encourage them to stay out of the area.”

LINKS

Don’t let drought or other severe weather tempt you to feed wildlife
Coyotes, Pets, and Feral Cats: The Humane Society of the United States

How many coyotes are there in a given area?

For this, I turn to a study by estern coyote researcher Jonathan Way, who states:

“The eastern coyote or coywolf is a unique form of canid that is large (ca. 15-18 kg – see Way, 2007a), genetically distinct (Way et al., 2010), lives at relatively low densities (ca. 3.0-4.0 individuals per 30 km2), and has comparably large territory sizes compared to the western coyote. Coyotes in the western portion of their geographic range typically occur at higher densities with an average of ~1 and a maximum of 3.0 indivduals per km2 primarily in the southern half of the United States. However, Parker (1995) estimates that average coyote densities in northeastern Noth America are only around 0.10—0.20 per km2, similar to findings by Way et al (2002a) in Massachusetts who reported 0.07—0.15 individuals per km2 on suburban Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The record recorded coyote density found in northeastern North America was 0.57 per km2 in Maine in the winter (Hilton, 1986). Understanding the range in reported densitie of a territorial species like the coyote throughout its range is important because this directly influences population dynamics in an area.”

LINKS

Way, Jonathan G. Record Pack Density of Eastern Coyotes/Coywolves (Canis latrans x Lycaon). The American Midland Naturalist, 165(1):201-203. 2011.

What is their social behaviour like?

Coywolves tend to live in small family groups consisting of the adult pair, the growing pups (who usually disperse in autumn), and occasionally adult offspring, although loners or transients seeking territory do occur.

Jonathan Way writes about one case study in the paper Social and Play Behavior in a Wild Eastern Coyote, Canis latrans, Pack: “I had close and consistent observations of a wild eastern Coyote pack (Canis latrans) from January 2000 to August 2007. During this time, I obtained 3156 radio-locations on a specific radio-collared breeding male (“Sill”) and observed him and/or members of his pack on 375 occasions. The average group size = 3.0 ± 2.3 (SD) Coyotes with 1.9 ± 1.2 (SD) being adults and 1.1 ± 1.9 being pups. Maximal group size involved 12 Coyotes (9 pups, 3 adults). During these observations, Coyotes most often behaved in a friendly manner toward each other as indicated by 80 of my observations involving play between pups, and 15 involving play among adult Coyotes. On the evening of 6 July 2007 I observed the breeding male (>8 yr old), his mate (>5 yr old), one of their full-sized probable yearlings, and five pups playing intensely for 33 minutes.”

LINKS

Meet the Coywolf: Wolf/Coyote/Coywolf: A Comparison
Social and Play Behavior in a Wild Eastern Coyote, Canis latrans, Pack

What do their different types of howls mean?

Coyotes have such a complex vocabulary that even the top researchers are not entirely sure how to decipher all of the calls, despite making strong pgress. Coyote vocalization researcher Brian R. Mitchell notes:

“An eerie sound breaks the calm. It is not the long, low, slow howling of wolves that can be heard further north, but the group yip-howl of coyotes: short howls that often rise and fall in pitch, punctuated with staccato yips, yaps, and barks.

“When people hear coyote howls, they often mistakenly assume that they’re hearing a large pack of animals, all raising their voices at once. But this is an auditory illusion called the ‘beau geste’ effect. Because of the variety of sounds produced by each coyote, and the way sound is distorted as it passes through the environment, two of these tricksters can sound like seven or eight animals.

“Group yip-howls are produced by a mated and territorial pair of ‘alpha’ coyotes, with the male howling while the female intersperses her yips, barks, and short howls. ‘Beta’ coyotes (the children of the alpha pair from previous years) and current year pups may join in if they are nearby, or respond with howls of their own. And once one group of coyotes starts howling, chances are that any other alpha pairs nearby will respond in kind, with chorus after chorus of group yip-howls rippling across the miles.

“I spent seven years studying coyote vocal communication during my dissertation research at the University of California, Berkeley. While eastern coyotes are a larger and distinct subspecies from the western coyotes that I worked with, the basic findings of my research and the work done by others applies to all coyotes. Coyotes have sometimes been called ‘song dogs,’ and their long distance songs come in two basic types.

“The first, the group yip-howl, is thought to have the dual purpose of promoting bonding within the family group while also serving as a territorial display. In other words, the coyotes are saying ‘we’re a happy family, and we own this turf so you better keep out.’ In a sense, the group howls create an auditory fence around a territory, supplementing the physical scent marks left by the group.

“Coyotes will also howl and bark separately. This second type of song is virtually always an indication of disturbance or agitation, and in my experience, the higher the proportion of howls, the more agitated the coyote is. Coyotes will howl and bark at neighbors who intrude on their territory, and at dogs, people, and other large animals that they perceive as a potential threat.

“My research documented that coyote barks and howls are individually specific. Much like we can tell people apart by their voices, there is enough information in coyote vocalizations for me (OK, my computer if you want to get technical) to tell individuals apart. If, as I suspect, coyotes can distinguish each other by their song, it would not be analogous to the animals constantly shouting their own names; it would be more akin to our ability to recognize Marlon Brando because of the distinctive timbre and cadence of his voice. Characteristics including dominant pitch, duration, how quickly howls rise and fall in pitch, and tendency to ‘warble’ while howling all distinguish one coyote from another.

“For howls, this individual distinctiveness does not fade with distance. I was able to record and identify individual coyotes over a distance of greater than one mile. Given their keen hearing, it is likely coyotes can discern individual howls at much greater distances — three miles or more on a calm night.

“Barks, on the other hand, degrade quickly over distance, with the higher frequencies fading first. This makes it theoretically possible for coyotes familiar with an individual (say, a mate or family group member) to determine roughly how far away that individual is, based on the proportion of high frequencies in the barks.

“Imagine a scenario where a lone coyote is patrolling the territory boundary and comes across an intruder. He starts barking and howling, and his mate and beta children come running to the right place because his howls indicate how agitated he is, and his barks allow his family to pinpoint the direction and distance to his location. Although I was not able to prove that coyotes can do these tasks, the information needed is present in their calls and there are strong evolutionary advantages to learning how to use it.

“We still have much to learn about coyote vocal communication. Even after years of studying coyote calls, I was barely able to scratch the surface. These tricksters hold their secrets tightly.”

LINKS

Coyotes: Listening to tricksters in the woods
Probing Question: Why do coyotes howl?
Wolves howl because they care: Social relationship can explain variation in vocal production

How can coyotes live in the city? Are they dangerous?

Recommended article (pdf): Predators in the ‘Hood: As cougars, coyotes and bears spread into backyards and downtowns, science is helping to show how people and predators can coexist.

From the Meet the Coywolf website’s interactive chart: “Eastern coyotes or coywolves, like western coyotes, are much more comfortable living in closer proximity to people than wolves are. Still, most people, whether in the city or the country, rarely see them. These phantom-like creatures have mastered the art of going about their business under the radar. We are more likely to hear them nearby. In the country the call and answer of coywolves keeping a check on each other is a common sound and in the city fire engine sirens and train whistles are known to set them howling in response. Despite being able to live near us, coywolves are wary and avoid people when ever possible. In urban areas, they tend to be nocturnal. Coywolves live in small family groups consisting of a mated pair and their young.”

LINKS

Meet the Coywolf: Wolf/Coyote/Coywolf: A comparison

Are bounties and predator killing contests effective?

In a word, no.

LINKS

Coyote Killing Contests: The Truth
Preview: Effects of Utah’s bounty program on harvester behavior

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2 thoughts on “Coywolf FAQ

  1. Is there any way for me to purchase and legally keep a coywolf. I live in Oregon, and I don’t want to go.outside the law just to get a pet…if you have any ideas please help.

    Like

    • Hi Peter, unfortunately, no. Coywolves haven’t yet made it to Oregon. I don’t know what your local laws are regarding keeping coyotes as pets, but I strongly discourage it. Coyotes make HORRIBLE pets. 99% of people who want a pet coyote have no idea how much time and effort it takes to take care of a very energetic, nervous, destructive, unpredictable animal. Their behaviour is not at all similar to domestic dog behaviour. You’ll have a nightmare on your hands. Coyotes are meant to live in the wild, and they’re happy in the wild.

      Like

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