wolf: Red Wolves and Coyotes

The red wolf, C. rufus, is a smaller species that varies in color from reddish gray to nearly black, but are typically brown and buff with some black along the backs and often a reddish color on their ears, head and legs. It has been nearly eradicated from most of its range in the forest and brush country of the E and S central United States and is listed as endangered. However, captive breeding programs are slowly increasing its numbers, and some have been reintroduced to the wild. The red wolf is similar in behavior to, and has been considered by some scientists to be a hybrid of, the prairie wolf, C. latrans, better known as the coyote. One DNA study concluded that the red wolf is a gray wolf–coyote hybrid, with the majority of its genome of coyote origin.

Smallest of the wolves, coyotes are still widespread in W North America. Real estate development in their traditional habitat, combined with the opening up of the ecological niche formerly filled by gray wolves and mountain lions, has prompted coyotes to greatly increase their range; they are now common in E North America and have developed populations in large urban centers such as Chicago, New York City, and Toronto. Eastern coyotes are generally larger, primarily as a result of interbreeding with wolves; such hybrid coyotes are sometimes called coywolves.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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