EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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February 17, 2013

Coyotes or coywolves: Debate grows over their true identity

NORTH ANDOVER — On a Saturday morning earlier this month, Bill Deyermond of 466 Salem St. looked out his kitchen window and saw what looked like a wolf emerge from the conservation land behind his house.

Then he said to himself, “No, that must be a coyote.”

As he snapped pictures of it through an open window, the animal sauntered around to the side yard of his house, plopped down on the grass, and looked around intently.

“He sat in the yard, looking at me in the window, and turning his head to watch the traffic go by,” said Deyermond, 70.

It didn’t act strangely, so he is pretty sure it didn’t have rabies, but he wondered what it was. He emailed several images to a Barnstable-based coyote expert, Dr. Jonathan Way, who confirmed his first hunch.

“It was a very healthy looking and young (probably 10-11 month old pup) animal,” Way responded. “Yes, it is an eastern coyote or coywolf.”

He said genetic comparisons with wolves show that eastern coyotes have a significant amount of wolf DNA, which would make them a hybrid of both animals.

“Genetics and science has basically finally caught up with reality (that) these ‘coyotes’ have always been hybrids,” Way said in an email to The Eagle-Tribune. “They are indeed social, intelligent pack/family oriented animals which is similar to both wolves and western coyotes.”

But according to the Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, there is no such thing as a coywolf, or a coydog, for that matter.

“They are all eastern coyotes,” said Marion Larson, information and education chief for the division. “Coywolf is not the proper term. It is a coyote, no different than any of the other coyotes in Massachusetts.”

She was also emailed photos of the animal seen in North Andover, further confirming her suspicion that it was, indeed, a coyote, albeit one with “luxuriant coat,” typical of the winter fur on many animals this time of year in New England.

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