News of hybrid creates scare in Yancey
BURNSVILLE — Yancey County officials and a state wildlife biologist spent Tuesday easing fears about reports of a new super breed of coyote that’s a cross with a wolf.
An area media report indicated the animals, larger than a typical coyote, had been found in Yancey County, but area experts said such a creature is a myth.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that there is some kind of super breed of coyote mixed with wolves,” N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologist Mike Carraway said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Coyotes occasionally interbreed with dogs, Carraway said, producing a mix called a coydog that may be larger than a typical coyote, but coydogs are uncommon.
The idea that hybrid coyotes could populate Western North Carolina from the West, where gray wolves are present, doesn’t make sense because gray wolves would prey upon coyotes, not mate with them, Carraway said. And red wolves are so rare in the wild in North Carolina that any interbreeding would be inconsequential.
Yancey County agricultural extension agent Stanley Holloway said he fielded phone calls Tuesday from residents worried about the reported larger, more aggressive coyotes.
“It actually kind of put a scare in people,” Holloway said.
He said some callers had expressed concern for their own safety as well as that of their pets.
Holloway and Carraway said coyotes are not a threat to humans, though they will prey on pets, including cats and dogs. Coyotes also occasionally prey on livestock, mostly commonly sheep and goats, and they sometimes kill fawns and other wildlife, Carraway said.
Coyotes, which can weigh from 20-44 pounds as adults, have been in North Carolina about 30 years, moving into the area from Western states. Carraway said biologists still don’t know how many of the animals are in the state, but coyotes have become common. They are extremely intelligent and adaptable, he said.
“We know there are a lot of them here, and they live virtually everywhere,” he said. “In most cases, coyotes can live in close proximity with people, and people never even know they’re there. They are carnivores, but they can eat a lot of things that aren’t meat. There’s really no time of year when there’s not some kind of food available for coyotes. They are very smart, and they can adapt to different situations and different types of food sources.”
Coyotes have become an easy scapegoat for wildlife and livestock depredation, Carraway said. And while the animals are cunning predators, they get blamed for some deeds they don’t do.
He remembers a case several years ago when wildlife officers found a pack of domestic dogs killing a deer.
Pet dogs allowed to run free can form packs that become highly effective at killing.
“We caught the dogs in the act of killing a deer,” he said. “It was just a pack of medium-sized house dogs.”