Historical Background of Coyotes

Coyote runnning © Ron Bedney
© Ron Bedney

Since the 1920s when the first eastern coyotes appeared in forests in New York, there has been confusion about their ancestry. In 1957 and 1958 coyote specimens were taken in Otis (Berkshire County) and New Salem (Franklin County) confirming that coyotes were present in the state. Since that time they have been confirmed in every county in the state, including Cuttyhunk Island and Martha’s Vineyard in Dukes County.

Because it is 20 to 30 percent larger than the western coyote, people believed it to be a cross between a coyote and a dog, giving it the name "coydog." Even though coyotes and dogs have been known to interbreed both in the wild and in captivity, mortality in the offspring is high and they likely could not evolve into the resilient canids now known as eastern coyotes.

Some researchers now believe that the eastern coyote is a hybridization between the western coyote and red wolves many generations ago in the upper Great Lakes region of the United States. It is theorized that as populations of the western coyote increased, they were forced to move east and north in search of food. As they moved into Minnesota they crossbred with eastern/red wolves and produced a genetically hardy animal able to sustain itself through New England winters.