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A new species is evolving before scientists’ eyes in the eastern United States.

Wolves faced with a diminishing number of potential mates are lowering their standards and mating with other, similar species, reported The Economist.

The interbreeding began up to 200 years ago, as European settlers pushed into southern Ontario and cleared the animal’s habitat for farming and killed a large number of the wolves that lived there.

That also allowed coyotes to spread from the prairies, and the white farmers brought dogs into the region.

Over time, wolves began mating with their new, genetically similar neighbors.

The resulting offspring — which has been called the eastern coyote or, to some, the “coywolf” — now number in the millions, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.

Interspecies-bred animals are typically less vigorous than their parents, The Economist reported — if the offspring survive at all.

That’s not the case at all with the wolf-coyote-dog hybrid, which has developed into a sum greater than the whole of its parts.

At about 55 pounds, the hybrid animal is about twice as heavy as a standard coyote, and her large jaws, faster legs and muscular body allow her to take down small deer and even hunt moose in packs, and the animal is skilled at hunting in both open terrain and dense woodland.

An analysis of 437 hybrid animals found that coyote DNA dominates her genetic makeup, with about one-tenth of its DNA from dogs, usually larger dogs such as Doberman pinschers and German shepherds, and a quarter from wolves.

The animal’s cry starts out as a deep-pitched wolf howl that morphs into higher-pitched yipping — like a coyote.

Her dog DNA may carry an additional advantage.

Some scientists think the hybrid animal is able to adapt to city life — which neither coyotes or wolves have managed to do on their own — because her dog ancestry allows her  to tolerate people and noise.

The coywolves have spread into some of the nation’s largest cities — including New York, Boston and Washington — using railway corridors.

The interbreeding allows the animal to diversify her diet and eat discarded food, along with rodents and smaller mammals — including cats, which coywolves eat skull and all — and they have evolved to become nocturnal to avoid humans.

The animals are also smart enough to learn to look both ways before crossing roads.

Not all researchers agree the animal is a distinct species, arguing that one species does not interbreed with another — although the hybrid’s existence raises the question of whether wolves and coyotes are distinct species in the first place.

But scientists who have studied the animal say the mixing of genes has been much faster, extensive and transformational than anyone had noticed until fairly recently.

“(This) amazing contemporary evolution story (is) happening right underneath our nose,” said Roland Kays, a researcher at North Carolina State.

Watch this report on coywolves.

Raw Story

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently re-posted these amazing photos of a standoff between some coyotes and a pair of juvenile mountain lions. This wild installment of the cat vs. dog battle happened in the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming back in 2013. Apparently the mountain lions, who were chased onto a fence above a creek, survived the encounter.

Image Credit: Lori Iverson / USFWS

Howling lesson por Debbie
Via Flickr:
June 26, 2013, Explore #1 Thank you for all of your comments and favorites. I am truly honored. Some have asked where the photo was taken - it was taken in Hinckley, Minnesota, USA, in a wildlife preserve. This image is for sale on my website: www.debbiedicarlophotography.com in various sizes. Also this image is printed on navy blue sweatshirts. They are also on the website.

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A new University of Georgia study aims to understand how coyotes live in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama (where they seem to be doing much better than in the West and the North). They’re trying to trap about 160 coyotes and fit them with GPS collars so they can learn how the animals navigate a human-dominated landscape.

How do they coyotes react to being trapped? Find out here.

Top image: Trapper Dan Eaton prepares to release an adult female coyote.

Bottom image: Biologists measure a coyote trapped outside Augusta, Ga.

Credit: Grant Blankenship/Georgia Public Broadcasting