Residents of the Golf Estates community in Laytonsville are not just crying wolf—several of them recently spotted an animal in their neighborhood thought to be a coywolf, which is a hybrid western wolf and eastern coyote.
Mike Maloney said he saw the animal run across his yard in late January. He and his wife initially thought it was a deer, but it ran up close enough for them to take a photo while they were sitting inside their truck.
“I am a hunter so I am used to seeing wild animals, but this was big,” he said. “It took off running into the woods after I yelled at it. It passed a couple of dogs and didn’t bother them, so that is good.”
Pete Godwin, a neighbor and veterinarian, said he has seen it run across the pasture behind his house, and concurs that it was big. Although he is familiar with them, this was the first time he has seen a live coywolf.
According to the website www.coywolf.org, the coywolf is most commonly called “eastern coyote.” However, recent research suggests that this animal is both genetically and morphologically intermediate to western coyotes and eastern wolves. Even though most people refer to them in the Northeast simply as “coyotes”, the website states that their background is much more complex and recent science suggests that it is more proper to call this animal a coywolf.
The website notes that the hybridization did not occur recently; rather, the animal has always been a hybrid of two different closely related species since it colonized the northeast U.S. starting 50-70 years ago.
After looking at the photo, Pete Jayne, associate director for game management at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, confirmed that it appears to be a coywolf, or as his organization more commonly refers to them, an eastern coyote.
“Eastern coyotes certainly carry wolf genetics,” he said. “That happened as they moved from the Midwest to the east, south from Canada.”
He said that eastern coyotes are bigger than western coyotes, and there is color variation between animals, which is a trait typically seen in wolves.
He said they are found in every county in Maryland, but the highest population is seen in the western part of the state.
“They’re not particularly dangerous,” he said. “There have been very few reports of attacks nationally, and none in Maryland. And most of those have been a result of people putting out food so they can see them better, but we don’t recommend that.”
Jayne said people should not create an attraction for the animals—including pet food outside, accessible trash, or even bird feeders.
He said that the department no longer tracks reports of eastern coyotes, but encourages people to contact them if they see one that is acting bold or aggressive.