Coywolf sighted in Cedarvale!

16th May: One of my correspondents via the Gmail reported on 26th April (sorry for delay) that she had seen a coywolf in the ravine. Here is a photo of one from the Toronto Star:

Wolves and coyotes are interbreeding to create an animal that has the pack-hunting instinct of wolves and the fearlessness of coyotes.

I will quote her directly: “This morning around 7 am I was at the east end of the ravine just past the curve up to the St Clair West subway. A coywolf passed right in front of me across the path, into the brush, where it stopped and we stared at each other (me in disbelief). It seemed fearless and had no instinct to run away. It just kept staring (unlike the more cautious foxes). I walked on slowly, ever watching it to make sure it wouldn’t dart at me. As I walked it just stayed there staring at me”.

She noted that it is known that coywolves generally live in groups and are known to attack other animals such as sheep and dogs, sometimes hunting in packs like wolves. She warned they could well attack off-leash dogs. She commented that there are many good reasons in any case to keep dogs on-leash (disturbance to wildlife, damage to growing plants etc), so this is an added reason to keep your dog on-leash. She said she had not seen foxes for a year and a half (and nor have I), perhaps because dogs (or it could be coywolves) have frightened them away.

The Star article, by Carola Vyhnak from 15th  August 2009, quoted Trent University chair and professor of biology, Bradley White, as saying coywolves are a result of interbreeding between western coyotes and eastern wolves. As the wolf population declined because of deforestation, wolf control programs and other factors, the coyotes moved in from their original western range and interbred with eastern wolves.  The resulting animals are apparently bigger than either wolf or coyote, sometimes twice as big as a typical coyote. As noted, they have the wolf characteristic of pack hunting and also have the coyote characteristic of lack of fear of human-developed areas. Observers note that coywolves are a result of human intervention in nature; and some believe that the lack of fear of humans may be a result of humans leaving pet food and garbage around (as has happened with raccoons). They predict the interaction with coywolves will continue to evolve; as one of them put it, “there will be pets eaten in Rouge Valley”. And maybe in Cedarvale!

Let me know if anyone sees a fox, coyote, deer or coywolf in the park.

John Cummings

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