Sudbury

Laurentian professor says 'coywolves' getting comfortable in city

A biologist at Laurentian University says coywolves are becoming more prevalent in urban areas. Professor Frank Mallory says he has no doubt the number of wolf-coyote hybrids is increasing in Sudbury.

Sudbury photographer captures footage of elusive wolf-coyote hybrid

Sudbury photographer captured this trail cam footage of wolf-coyote hybrid. 1:01

A Sudbury photographer captured trail cam footage of some visitors along a wooded trail in his back yard recently. 

Terry Hayes said he wasn't surprised to see the tape showing two coywolves ambling down the trail on the Wembley Green Belt, a small area that crosses a neighbourhood in downtown Sudbury and crosses through several residential areas.

"I started noticing some tracks back there that I was curious about," Hayes said. "I was figuring they're dogs or maybe something else, wolves or coyotes because they have been seen in the city."

Hayes has managed to film the animals over several nights as they cross from the green belt into people's yards.

"You see them sniffing the air a lot," Hayes said. "They tend to go over to the suet feeder and take a look at that. But they always head over to a brush pile, smell around there, smell all around the trees, take a sniff of the rabbit runs."

"I've yet to see them actually catch anything or chase anything, but I'm sure that day will come."

Sudbury photographer Terry Hayes captured trail cam footage of coywolves who frequent the Wembley green belt. (Terry Hayes)

Enter the Coywolf

From Hayes' trail cam footage, Laurentian University biologist Frank Mallory said it was almost impossible to identify if the animals on the trail were wolf or coyote.

"I've worked a lot with the Sudbury Trappers Council and you can look at wolves and trappers will say 'well that's a wolf and this is a coyote and that's a hybrid.'"

"But there's such a variation out there you can't really tell the difference."

Coywolf tracks measure just under 2 inches, which is characteristic of a coyote's track. (Terry Hayes)

Mallory said the different hybrids evolved to tackle particular kinds of prey.

"The size of the animal is directly related to the prey that they're specializing on," Mallory said. "So if you're specializing on moose you've got to be a big guy to kill a moose."

"If you're eating bunnies you need a small guy to kill bunnies. But the genetics says that on average, they're all mixed together. They all produce fertile offspring. They all interbreed."

Mallory added that he has no doubt the number of wolf-coyote hybrids is increasing in Sudbury, but people shouldn't have anything to fear from the animals.

"Well I don't think people on average should be terribly worried," Mallory said.  "If you make a big noise,generally these animals run away. But you're more likely to get killed by walking across the street and by cars."

Mallory says people may want to consider keeping pets inside if coywolves are in the area.

Prof. Frank Mallory, shown here with a wolf skull, says coywolves are a hybrid wolf/coyote, and are difficult to identify by sight alone. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

About the Author

Casey Stranges is a reporter based in Sudbury. casey.stranges@cbc.ca