Tennessee Coyotes: Natural Mutts

Happy National Mutt Day! Did know that coyotes in Tennessee (and everywhere else east of the Mississippi River) are naturally-occurring mutts?

After humans killed off most of the red wolves and gray wolves that once dominated North American forests, wolves were left with so few available mates that they had no choice but to cross-breed with dogs and coyotes. Coyotes slowly migrated from the Western U.S. to fill the gaps in the ecosystem left by the loss of our original apex predators. As newcomers, they also had few mates available and adapted by seeking out dogs and wolves as mates.

Most coyotes in Tennessee aren’t the result of recent hybrids. Their last dog and wolf ancestors were usually 10-30 generations ago. But dogs and wolves had enough influence on our local coyotes that you can see their “mutt” nature in their size, behavior, and coloration. For example, this beautiful girl, who was a patient at For Fox Sake, weighed over 40 pounds, which is over twice the size of a female Western coyote, and her markings were wolf-like. Coyotes here in Tennessee are also more social, and more likely to hunt in groups, than their Western cousins, which tend to be solitary hunters.

Aren’t our local wild animals amazing? We’d love to see your photos of mutts, both coyote and domestic!

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