The coywolves of Albemarle County: A new species that calls the area home

By Jackson Landers | December 2, 2015

Virginia’s coywolves, a hybrid between western coyotes and eastern timber wolves, are often black in color. Also called eastern coyotes, they are 66 percent coyote, 24 percent wolf and 10 percent dog. Photo: Jon Way

A lone, gray pickup truck with its headlights off rolls along the gravel road in the pale light of a full moon. The truck stops along a tree line in front of a long, broad field and two camouflaged men get out. They close the doors slowly so as to not make any noise. The men sling their rifles over their shoulders and whisper about where to begin. Down past the woods? Over at the neighboring farm?

A long, chilling howl erupts from the woods across the freshly cut hay field in front of them, followed by a chorus of yips and more howling. Mike Hummell watches and listens. He zips up his jacket against the cold. “You want to hunt that?” he asks his hunting partner, Marshall Koontz.

Hummell and Koontz are specialist hunters who respond to calls from concerned residents about predators preying on their flocks of sheep, herds of cows, etc. Working pro bono last week, they had received a call from a farmer concerned about a top-level predator that has recently arrived in Virginia—the coywolf. Also called the eastern coyote, the coywolf is a hybrid of western coyotes and eastern timber wolves, and it may represent an entirely new species.

For most of human history, wolves have been feared and hated. They ate livestock and occasionally attacked humans. Virginia’s first government bounty on wolves was enacted at Jamestown in 1632. As settlers moved west, the slaughter accompanied them across the continent and bounties continued to be paid in some states into the early 20th century. The removal of wolves enabled the expansion of the coyote.

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Source: The coywolves of Albemarle County: A new species that calls the area homeC-VILLE Weekly

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