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Sisco
June 29, 2004, 07:47 PM
http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/9019447.htm?1c

DALLAS - Something has happened to the coyotes that roam the underbrush and dank creeks and drains that wind through northeast Dallas.

Built like canine tanks, the coyotes in this North Texas pack are taller, longer and more massive than the streamlined, wasp-waisted coyotes found elsewhere in the state.

They make their homes alongside sleepy subdivisions and bustling thoroughfares. Drainage canals that eventually dump into Dallas' White Rock Lake have become a kind of superhighway for the four-legged.

Reports of these enormous animals have drawn the attention of one of the nation's foremost wolf biologists, L. David Mech, a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and professor at the University of Minnesota. A typical Texas coyote weighs 25 to 35 pounds, Mech said, and these animals weigh between 40 and 50 pounds.

No researcher before has reported coyotes of this size in Texas, he said.

"Coyotes and wolves are closely related," Mech said. "When I heard about those large coyotes in Dallas, I thought it was worth looking into because they are consistently large. It isn't just one extra-large animal but several, like the whole pack is larger than usual."

Coyotes -- traditionally known as solitary creatures that howl in the distance at night -- have learned to live among humans. And researchers say that the coyotes captured in North Texas may have a remarkable ability to adapt to their changing environment or have crossbred with other canine species.

"It's possible that the coyote is changing genetically," said veteran trapper Mike Trpkosh, who has caught a number of these coyotes. "The coyotes are huge. They're off the charts -- a super species of coyote."

He has combed through tangles of mesquite, ragweed and cottonwood in the reedy outback of the Lochwood area near White Rock Lake in search of coyote tracks, waste, kill sites and dens, hoping to track down an enormous alpha male coyote.

"I've been looking for him for over a year," he said. "I found some scat with bones and a large print in the gravel on Tuesday. I'm pretty sure it's him."

Trpkosh contracts with a number of cities, including Dallas, to trap and dispose of coyotes and other nuisance animals.

Over the past few years, he said, he started noticing a change in some of the coyotes he was trapping, particularly in the Lochwood neighborhood. These coyotes are bulkier than most, with deeper chests and fur with a downy undercoat like a dog's.

At first he attributed the coyotes' change to diet.

"I figured they were eating pets and pet food and their size was a product of good nutrition -- but good nutrition's not enough to explain the change," he said.

These "super coyotes" may be the first signs that the species is crossbreeding with dogs, Mech and other researchers say.

In March, Mech flew to Dallas to collect DNA samples from the coyotes' fecal matter, and geneticists at the university are examining it to determine why the coyotes are so big. The results will be available in August.

Mech said crossbreeding between coyotes and dogs has been well-recorded in the Northeast but is new to Texas.

Some animal experts are skeptical.

Ron Cornelison, a public health technician with the Texas Department of Health, attributed the coyotes' size to diet.

"They simply have more access to dog food or cat food," he said. "The food supply is more plentiful, so you'd expect to see coyotes a few pounds heavier with a better coat and appearance."

Cornelison said he doubts that dogs and coyotes are interbreeding.

"Coy-dogs are very rare," he said. "People claim to see these mixes -- and genetically they can breed, they're not that far apart -- but most of the time coyotes and dogs just don't mix."

But Mech said arguments in favor of diet fall short. Coyotes throughout Texas have the same access to the usual fare of rodents, rabbits and garbage in addition to pet food and small, domesticated animals found in greenbelts and neighborhoods, he said, and record weights are being reported only in a specific area of the state.

Crossbreeding between coyotes and dogs might also explain the animals' aggressive behavior.

"A coyote bred with a dog is dangerous -- it removes their fear of humans," said Capt. Garry Collins of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "They can be aggressive if you're between them and a food source."

However, Collins said he is unaware of a population of coy-dogs in the Dallas area. "Dogs are a bigger problem," he said. "I think that's what people are seeing."

Mech said a second explanation might be that Trpkosh stumbled upon a pack of coyotes that had bred with wolves. This cross-hybridization accounts for larger coyotes in the Northeast and in Canada. But given that Texas' indigenous red wolf population was virtually hunted to extinction and has not been seen in the state for nearly 30 years, Mech said this theory is not likely.

Trpkosh said the trend reaches beyond a single strain or group of giant coyotes; the big animals have been trapped in Garland, Murphy and Mesquite, 15 miles away. Packs usually range five to seven miles, Trpkosh said.

carebear
June 30, 2004, 01:27 AM
Are there any atomic ray-producing installations nearby? Or a scientist trying to produce a larger food animal?

Cause in the 50's, it was usually one of those to blame, according to the documentaries I see on TCM.

mete
June 30, 2004, 07:21 AM
Coyotes are very interesting creatures, very adaptable. In the north east coyotes will hunt small animals on their own but larger animals like deer they will operate in packs.And 40-50 lbs would not be large for this area, in NY they will run up to about 75 lbs. After all the years of trying to exterminate the coyote , they are doing very well ,they range over most of the country and Canada. Here in NY they replace a small wolf called a brush wolf that was exterminated over 100 years ago.

Dave R
June 30, 2004, 12:55 PM
Hmmmm. I'm criss-crossing Dallas in a car on business today. I can vouch for the fact that there are a LOT of those drainage canals and they are heavily wooded. Looks like ideal habitat.

Wonder what the legalities would be of taking them in the city with crossbow?

Probably a class III misdemeanor or a felony. Not worth it.

Lone Star
July 18, 2004, 09:54 AM
I don't live too awfully far from the Lochwood area of the city, in north Dallas, and haven't personally seen any coyotes, although I know they do live in the city. I HAVE personally seen gray foxes in an afluent neighborhood just off busy Forest Lane in N. Dallas. They seem normal size. I suppose they scavenge dog food, and there are rabbits, 'coons, and squirrels for them to eat. I bet they eat domestic cats, too. And oppossums!

Lone Star

PATH
July 18, 2004, 10:03 PM
Nature has natural selection going on. Bigger, stronger, and different is what coyotes can become. They are an adaptable species and it looks like they are adapting well and thriving. Here in NY there are some that are very good sized. A diet heavily supplemented by human food sources will allow for the emergence of a larger coyote. What is the avaerage height for a man in 2004 compared to 1804. Improvement in diet has caused peoples' height to rise on average over the last few hundred years. An improved diet allows for larger members of the species to develop. I think that is what is being seen in the coyote population.

Zorro
July 22, 2004, 10:38 PM
Claim: Photograph shows a 115-pound coyote killed in New York. (http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/coyote.asp)

WRONG it is a Grey Wolf - Dog hybrid.

Selfdfenz
August 13, 2004, 01:16 PM
There are coyotes on many areas of Dallas besides those mentioned.

Free food
No competition
No predation

Perfect deal compared to livin in the woods and having to contend with all that. The city slickers are bigger and have better coats than the country versions.
S-