What do we call this dog?
Call it a coywolf. Call it a coyote. Call it whatever you like, but don’t call it your way.
Clarkstown Police on Monday warned residents to avoid contact with coyotes that roam the area, including a large dog they photographed in Congers that morning and referred to as a “coywolf” .
The alert garnered media attention and social media discussions. But what exactly is a coywolf?
Clarkstown Police Officer Peter Walker, a spokesperson for the department, said a few officers gave him a description of the animal that was spotted in Congers on Monday, and online searches suggested it was was a coywolf.
Experts disagree on the validity of the term, but its origin stems from the links between two canine sects.
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“It’s kind of a taxonomic debate,” said Chris Nagy, director of research and land management at Mianus River Gorge in Bedford.
Nagy, who is also a co-founder of the Gotham Coyote Project, said there is a 10-30% mixture of wolves or dogs in every coyote in this region.
“Every coyote throughout the Northeast could be called a coywolf,” he said. “So, this is nothing unusual.”
The term coywolf is sometimes used as an alternate name for the eastern coyote, which is larger than its counterpart in the western United States. There is still breeding between coyotes and wolves in parts of Canada, Nagy said, but not in New York City, where a wolf sighting is rare.
“The coyotes we have here are from distant generations [from breeding with wolves]”He said.” Basically when people say they’ve seen a wolf, it’s probably just an eastern coyote getting its winter coat. “
Others believe that the term coywolf is a more appropriate reflection of this past interbreeding, and that it may even justify its own species designation.
“I don’t think it’s accurate to call them coyotes when their DNA (across northeastern North America) is made up of genes from the western coyote, eastern wolf, gray wolf, and dog. “Coyote researcher and author Jonathan Way wrote on his website, Easterncoyoteresearch. com.
Whatever the name of these dogs, they “are still mostly coyotes in the genetic sense,” said Jason Munshi-South, associate professor at the Louis Calder Center at Fordham University in Armonk.
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“It is true that coyotes have mated with wolves as coyotes have moved east over the past century or so, but it is extremely unlikely that there are recent hybrids (e.g. an animal which is 50 percent wolf) because there are no wolves in this Far East anymore, ”he said.
While wolves are a thing of the past in New York City, coyotes still inhabit the state. Several coyote sightings have been reported in Clarkstown since November, including police sighting Monday near Georgetown townhouses off Highway 303 in Congers.
Sean McCormack, a resident of Congers, filmed a coyote he saw in Upper Nyack on November 28. He said he was squatting and appeared to be stalking a woman as she returned home after taking out the trash.
McCormack said he got out of his van and hissed at the coyote, which then rushed behind a house on North Midland Avenue.
“I was just telling people, ‘Watch out, there’s a coyote.’ It’s pretty scary, you know, “he said.” It looked pretty big. I have sometimes seen them on golf courses. They look a bit scruffy. He looked well fed. It looked like there was meat on it.
Clarkstown Police suggested following these safety tips to avoid trouble with coyotes:
- If you see a coyote, you can chase it away by making noise.
- Do not feed coyotes or feed your pets outdoors, to avoid attracting coyotes.
- Keep your dogs on a leash outside.