Crying wolf? Experts skeptical of “red wolf” claims, but warn of coyotes (with VIDEO) (Florida, USA)
As to what they really are - well...many coyotes east of the Mississippi are larger than their western cousins because of historical cross-breeding with red wolves. The amount of white that these animals have in their fur is not typical for either species, which makes me wonder if they've got a little feral dog in them too. A full blooded coyote actually looks like this (taken in 2007 in Alberta, well out of the red wolf-coyote hybrid zone):
And a so-called tweed wolf - a coyote / red wolf mix - looks more like this (taken in the Great Smokies NP, Tennessee, 2005):
Crying wolf? Experts skeptical of “red wolf” claims, but warn of coyotes (with VIDEO) September 08, 2009 3:24 PM Jennifer Rich Harwood, Destin Log As Destin mom and photographer Charm Hess enjoyed a quiet dawn on her porch before the kids were up, she locked eyes with what she thought was a wolf right in the middle of Destin. “It wasn't a dog, trust me. I looked right at him and said, 'Dang, I wish I had my camera!' ” Hess told The Log. The sighting happened atop a tall white sandy hill that collides with a wooded area. The seemingly out of place hill is nestled on the block bordered by Azalea, Benning and Mountain Drives and Melvin Street. Local interest over wolves, particularly the red wolf species, surged recently after The Log ran a column online by Walton County writer Chick Huettel. Huettel received a video clip via e-mail from John Esling, a local man who said he captured the wolf look-a-likes on camera near a local pond. The video, which can be seen by clicking here, is an enchanting look at a pack in its element, untouched by humans. However, Stan Kirkland, a regional spokesman for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said he is nearly 100 percent sure that what Hess saw in Destin and what is in the Esling video are not red wolves. “I'm not aware that we have any red wolf colonies in the western most counties from Bay County on over,” Kirkland said. The only area Kirkland is aware that red wolves exist in Northwest Florida are on St. Vincent Island south of Apalachicola, where populations were released in the 1990s to propagate in the area. St. Vincent Island is separated from Destin by over 100 miles and some soggy terrain. He said it is more likely that Hess saw a coyote, as they have moved pretty heavily into the area over the past 30 years from west of the Mississippi River. He said coyotes are predators, but not in the sense that most people believe. Coyotes prefer to eat small rodents, birds, snakes, roadkill and game carcasses left behind by hunters. “There have been a few isolated incidents where coyotes have attacked people, but very few in the eastern United States,” he said. He said coyotes are a wildlife fixture that are here to stay, something pet owners should be warned of. “There's some degree of certainty that they will take cats,” he said. Kirkland said there is ample evidence that coyotes will pick off the family cat and the occasional small dog. In a recent study in the suburbs of Tucson, Ariz., eight coyotes wearing radio transmitters were monitored over a four-month period. During that time, the coyotes killed 19 cats and had twice as many interactions with family pets. Kirkland said it is a good idea for people to fence their yards and keep their cats indoors. Huettel's column mentioned a similar incident in Walton County. Susan Carroll-Douglas, a biologist with FWC, also viewed the video with other colleagues and they all agree that the video is most likely a wild dog and coyote hybrid, based on their characteristics. Carroll-Douglas receives nuisance wildlife calls from urban areas all over the Panhandle, and they usually end up being coyotes or wild dogs. She also said red and gray foxes are common in this area. The experts agree it is not likely that a red wolf made it to Walton and Okaloosa counties. Carroll-Douglas said it was reported that a red wolf swam ashore in Port Saint Joe last year, but she was unsure if it was caught or tracked. The moral may be to remain conscious of these animals for the sake of small pets and children. “It does concern me, because my kids play out there,” Hess said.