Coyote or wolf? Why a strange dog killed in N.Y. has scientists stumped

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By Kurt Martone

NEW YORK (WENY) – Too large to be a coyote and too small to be a wolf, an animal killed recently on a coyote hunt in New York has scientists and hunters stumped.

“Genetically the animal was identified as a coyote. {But} the state doesn’t have an official position on what that animal is,” said Dan Rosenblatt, a wildlife biologist with the New York State Department of Conservation.

A test done by Trent University said that the animal is an Eastern Wolf, which is not a distinct species of wolf. The animal, according to tests, is both wolf and coyote.

“The test that we commissioned shows that it has wolf DNA,” Rosenblatt said.

Animals have two types of DNA. The wolf DNA appeared in the Nuclear DNA which is a mixture of DNA from both parents. The mitochondrial DNA test performed showed that the animal was a coyote. Mitochondrial DNA only comes from the mother. It is likely that the animals mom is a coyote and dad is a wolf.

“The distinction between a wolf and a coyote, particularly in the northeastern United States, isn’t as clean and clear as folks might think it should be,” said Rosenblatt.

New York State only got the tip because an upstate hunter thought the coyote was massive for its breed, looking much like a smaller wolf.

“The observations of oversized coyote are fairly rare,” Rosenblatt said. “We don’t get reports of large numbers of wolf sized animals. We tend to actually get more reports of people who think they’ve seen mountain lions that turn out to be house cats.”

As coyotes moved east, they interbred with wolves, having offspring which are far larger and more wolfish than their smaller western cousins.


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