Wild canids are special to me. On the North American front I am particularly fond of red wolves, coyotes and their hybrids the “coywolf”.
The red wolf is declared extinct in the wild other than a handful of captive-bred animals that have been released into various remote areas. The reason for extinction designation was hybridization with coyotes-accacerbated by wholesale slaughter under the guise of predator control.
The term “coywolf” is most often used for gray wolf/coyote hybrids but it is equally fitting for the offspring of coyotes and red wolves.
According to Wikipedia, the red wolf’s taxonomic status is the subject of ongoing debate. Genetic studies provide two theories about wolves in North America.
The first theory proposes that there exists only two-species – grey wolves (C. lupus) and (western) coyotes (Canis latrans). These produced hybrids, including the Great Lakes wolf, the eastern gray wolf and eastern coyote and the red wolf. The second theory proposes that there exists three species – the addition of the eastern wolf as the species C. lycaon, with the red wolf being the same species. Hybrids include the Great Lakes wolf that are the product of grey wolf × eastern wolf hybridization, and eastern coyotes that are the result of eastern wolf × western coyote hybridization. However, based on morphology the red wolf is considered as the separate species Canis rufus, with possible fossils dating back to 10,000 years ago. The debate remains unresolved.
My friend Mark Hines has for the last three years been getting the most amazing videos of a family of animals I believe has some red wolf in their lineage down the road. These are from Orange County, TX in an area literally less than five miles away from where the last “pure” red wolves were captured for the federal breeding program in 1980.
Mark has given us an incredible look into the lives of these animals that are no doubt mostly coyote but look like they have some red wolf in the gene pool as well. These clips show puppies born this spring.
Naturalists like Mark are an important part of keeping the awareness of wildlife at a high level and allowing us to get an incredible glimpse at some things rarely seen by human eyes.
Chester Moore, Jr.