Don’t Be Shocked But That is a Wolf at Your Door.

Everyone knows that coyotes have moved onto Cape Ann and Cape Cod but did you know they are actually a new hybrid with the eastern wolf? The DNA typing of this new species is just in its infancy. Mostly using mitochondrial DNA to get a rough understanding but now that genomic sequencing is much cheaper a more detailed picture is forming. Some coyotes trapped have come up as 90% eastern wolf DNA! These hybrids, I’ll call them coywolf from now on, are bigger than coyotes. They are very sociable, live in family packs and can have a range of ten square miles. That is a decent chunk of Cape Ann. I would guess though if the food is plentiful they would hang in one region near their den.

Should you be fearful of these coywolves? You shouldn’t. In fact we should be happy they are here. They fill the niche that the wolf filled here for centuries and now she is back. They eat deer, mice, rabbits, all those small animals. The deer and mice are key. Lyme disease has a life cycle that explodes when deer and mice populations increase. Knocking down both of these populations will keep Lyme disease in check.

Yes, the coywolves will eat your cat but your cat should not be out there anyway. Feral and outdoor cats eat more than 3 billion birds in the US annually. You can’t blame them. They have been trained to do this since ancient egyptian times protecting granaries from vermin. They don’t even eat them just killing one bird after another. Keep your cat inside and let these coywolves keep the population of Lyme disease plagued vermin like deer and mice down to tolerable levels. They are a perfect fit for Cape Ann. They don’t like to eat birds. And if you find a dead coywolf I need just a very small blood sample to run a genetic haplotype test to see how much of a wolf she was. But please do not hunt them. They are doing us all a big favor. Imagine going for a hike in Dogtown and having no fear of being covered by disease ridden deer ticks. If you’ve had Lyme disease you should kiss a wolf on the lips for moving into your neighborhood. They might even take out a fishercat or two.

If the genetic testing of the coywolves on Cape Ann come up as over 80% wolf DNA we can drop the hybrid coywolf name. That is a wolf.

[3/26/13 edit] Lots of great comments on this article. For some local information on wolves go to Wolf Hollow in Ipswich:

46 thoughts on “Don’t Be Shocked But That is a Wolf at Your Door.

  1. thanks for this. yes, i knew they are largely wolf. on average 15 lbs heavier than western coyote.
    the ones in boston are HUGE. have been waiting for the general public to find out !

    sorry to say, as a cat-owner, i am not a fan. the coy-wolves eat more small animals they do
    than deer, ( for example they will run behind plowing tractors, eating the rodents that jump out like candy ) and my cats so not kill birds so i think they are doing a great job the bugs and rodents.

    a few useful things i do know –
    if they approach you to play, scare them away. this is not a disney film- they do not want to play. they are checking to see how much energy it would cost to make a meal out of you, the way we read the restaurant menus on main st. make noise, and show aggression, like my coonhound does. and drive them off. my coonhound showed me how to deal with them and what they were about. he is gentle, not a killer or an aggressive animal. when he shows aggression, it’s to send a message. he tracks for fun, and it makes him happy. but when he sees or smells a coyote… boy is he mad ! he wants to drive those suckers off !! where as i have seen him do the ” let’s play!’ bow to get deer to run.

    do not turn your back on them. if you must walk away, back away. and make noise.
    also the actual wolves will eventually get here; i hear they have been seen in western mass.
    i’m wondering what the general public will make of this as they find out.

    everybody loves big wild animals. until they are in their back yard.


    1. I haven’t met an outdoor cat fan who is also a fan of the wolf yet. Outdoor cat fans just never realize how many birds their cats are eating. They only leave a present under the dining room table every once in a while when they’re bored.

      I think the general public, at least around here already knows about them. I don’t see too many dogs running around off leash and the outdoor cats have already been picked off or they are inside for good where they belong.


      1. I totally agree with you Paul. I don’t/can’t fathom how anyone that loves their pet cat cannot understand the simplicity in the food chain. Cats left on their own, outdoors, become tasty meals or victims to other hazzards. Period. They also desimate the bird and wildlife population not to mention using any well tended garden as a poop box. Don’t even get me started on the percentage of cat “owners” with roaming cats that haven’t had them spayed or neutered. Unacceptable. That said…I welcome the coywolf or wolf or any hybrib of them to come. We don’t own this planet. We rent it just like they do.


    1. I may have overstated that a bit. Kiss a photo maybe. Sue has had Lyme disease too. Deer ticks also carry at least five other nasty diseases which are harder to figure out you have them until it’s too late. Lyme disease is a “nice ” one because you get a bullseye rash. Rocky mountain spotted fever (not just there but here too), babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, are just a few nasty things that you think you might have the flu but it never goes away. Anaplasmosis another one that is hot around the northeast. Fever, chills, just a cold that won’t go away.

      It’s not like we have to never take a walk in the woods but they are a more dangerous place now that we have cleaned out the predators of deer and other vermin. Better that we allow wolves to do their job. Trapping or killing them would just replicate our past mistakes.


      1. It is refreshing to see someone with common sense when it comes to Wildlife.
        We seem to have forgotten that nature is a balance and if we change that balance, then it changes the balance of all nature.

        It is encouraging to see information that is viable going out to the public ahead of the advance of the return of Natures correction to Mans problem.

        In the west Wolves are degraded not because they are so bad, but because our Public Lands are being leased to private individuals to ranch on rather than being used as the Wildlife Buffer Zones they were intended to be to start with.

        It is beyong time for actualt scieintific information to be provided rather than politically tainted information designed to do what a handful of people wnat to have accomplished.

        The natural predators create a balance that protects humans not only from the disease but from over grazing of certain folage which also needs to be in balance. It is a complete circle. Over populations of Deer cause damage to the habitat. Man is a top down predator. We take the strongest and best to put on our wall. This leaves the weaker animals to spread their genetic defects through out the herds. These flawed animals are removed by natural predators creating stronger and healtier herds.

        Yes, the woods are a dangerous place. But not just because of teh animals that livethere. A fall causing a broken hip, leg or other injury actually causes more deaths than animals cause.

        If peopel are going to be in the woods, the first thing they need to learn before going out there is how to behave and how to be safe.

        Nature does not belong to the few. It protects all of us and without a balance, then we are all in danager.


  2. The urban population of the coywolf and their interaction with people is an evolving story. We know we should avoid contact and not have food around and not set small animals up for easy pickings. We know that hunting them has not been very successful. We dont know how this story will play out as this population grows.


  3. WE have become afraid to take walks after dark because they are in our street. Not in the woods, on the street. What the heck are we supposed to do? I hate deer ticks as much as the next guy, but I don’t want wild wolves hanging around my house. Cool post, Paul.


    1. Beth, here is some good coyote info. They actually mention koi ponds without much of a solution. I’ve got a netting over mine right now to keep out the damn oak leaves.

      The take home message is that the population is not increasing. Natural populations have a set point if all the niches are filled. Prior to coywolves showing up there was no setpoint for deer, mice and rabbits because the few fishercats we have could not come close to knocking their populations down. Coywolves will do that. Once the food population levels out at a lower and steady number the coywolves will stay at their setpoint.


    2. Hi Beth,
      My wife and I walk in the evenings.
      We can only see one neighbor. The next neighbor is a nile in either direction.
      I suggest somethin gsimple if yo uwant to go for a walk, take something like a metal pot with a large spoon. If you see Coyotes, bang on the pot vigerously.. They will retreat.

      We are also home to 70 rescued wolfdogs of varying degrres of blood. When the Coyotes start to “yip” the wolves will start howling. When the wolves stop howling the Coyotes will be gone.

      Coyotes are not human shy like wolves are . Somethng that we see in teh wolfdogs is that the higher the wolf content, the more wolf traits the animal wil ldisplay. This is true with coywolf animals as well.

      One of the most likely ways to remove the Coyote Threat, is the injection of wolf DNA.

      However, in the immediate situation that yo uare in, a daily round of banging pots and making noise in the area that you want to walk will help to establish it as a boundary the Coyotes wil lbe less likely to enter.

      That is not to say that you should cease to be vigilant, It is often the single animal that may not be able to keep up with the pack andmanage to find food as easily due to a wound or age that can be more dangerous to humans.

      Be vigilant, and aware of yoru surroundings, but do nor fear. Learn how to deal with these animals and use your knowlege to remove the fear and to move the animals in a different direction.


  4. Paul, I found this completely fascinating! Do you happen to if this is also true of coyotes in the southeast? My parents have issues with them on their farm down south. Thanks!


    1. Heather, As I was researching this post I ran into a lot of discussion about US southeast which is a tad different than here in the northeast. Most of the taxonomy done is all pregenetic testing or if they use genetics it is mitochondrial DNA which is cheaper but not as clear picture. In a few years it will get much clearer but meanwhile …

      In the northeast it seems like the coyote travelled east above and below the Great Lakes. The migration that took the northern route ran into grey wolves and interbred. Coywolf that weighs 15 pounds more makes it to the east. The coyotes taking the shorter route on the southern side did not interbreed (wolves had been exterminated) and so did not get bigger so they took their sweet time getting east, these stayed coyote.

      In the southeast the red wolf was reintroduced.
      The red wolf may have been a grey coyote hybrid already.
      The reporting is pretty sketchy but they now seem to be living and breeding in the wild

      One thing that is pretty clear is that scary stories get reported and amplified. But the fact is there have been 5 people bitten in Massachusetts since 1950. No deaths. Two of those bitten were feeding the wolf. That would make it a very rare event. Hit by lightning twice kind of odds. Anyone who gets stalked in their backyard tells the story and it gets amplified on the internet until days later that the wolves are carrying children off to their den to be fattened up and eaten. We all know what happened to little red riding hood …


      1. Paul, thank you! I find this unbelievably fascinating. I have always found wolves to be beautiful and intelligent creatures. Nice to know their legacy goes on.

        I agree that scary stories get blown out of proportion. My parents have a farm with goats. It helps that they have donkeys with the herd but those southeast coyotes come around every once in a while to test the fences and eye the babies. But once they see the donkeys, they take off.

        Thank you for the link and please keep us posted if you hear anymore.


      2. The Canis Rufus (Eastern Red Wolf) was released in Tennesee, North Carolin a and South Carolina. To my understanding the NFWS caught the ones that had been release in Ten and placed them back into the recovery program.

        Coyotes in Alabama and Georgia were brought in by FoxHunters back in the 70’s. Before that time I had never seen a Coyote here.

        I live in East Centrral Alabama. Near the Talladega Nationa lForest.

        Now we are surrounded by Coyotes every where.

        There are several packs near us. One to the North has approximately fifty members in the pack.

        Of course were extremely rural. Surropunded by around five million acres of timber land and providing worlds of cover. We also have an enormous deer population which is hardly affected by the Coyote since they tend to be more of a scavanger than a predator. They will attack a Calfing cow before trying to run down a her of deer.

        I believe that the Coywolves that are coming into yoru area will be a great advantage over the Coyote that we have here.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary Ann, thank you for mentioning Wolf Hollow. I found their website here and have added the link to the main article:
      I had no idea there was someplace local you could check out wolves. If people could understand how important it is to have wolves around to balance out the natural order. The only thing unnatural right now are the two species we have in the area which will seek out certain animals and kill them until they are extinct. Humans and cats. One of them should know better.


  5. While coywolves may be shy, they sure aren’t fearful! I saw one trotting down Mount Pleasant Ave in East Gloucester yesterday at 7:30 am. The ones I have seen in the pines always make a quick departure as soon as they see us coming. I’m fascinated by these beautiful creatures. Keep the posts coming!


  6. Terrific post, Paul. Smart, interesting and timely. And a kick-ass headline. Haven’t seen any coywolves near us downtown but our friends in East Gloucester see ’em regularly. Thank you.


    1. I debated with myself (no fisticuffs) about the headline. Wanted to get the clicks with a little scare but not too scary. I’m sure no one got the MeatLoaf Wolf at the Door connection but everyone has heard the saying.


  7. Great article. We have them in our backyard. I have said all along they look very big for coyotes. Love listening tothem howl at the train.


  8. I live near the golf course in Rockport with plenty of woods behind my house. New Year’s eve on our way home late, a pair of large and gorgeous animals crossed in front of our headlights. They had roughs at the neck and looked back at us with a piercing, questioning look. I said to Theo that they looked more like wolves than Coyotes. I spent many years in the Southwest and the coyotes have a way of slinking, with their heads low, almost walking with a sideways gait, and they were mostly solitary sightings. Here too the coyotes I see regularly are small and solitary. Hard to describe exactly but these two had heads held high and seemed a true pair on the prowl. It was magnificent to see them, to connect for just that instant. I think they were much more wolf than coyote so I found your post interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I looked out the window one snowy morning this winter, and a coyote-like animal was walking brazenly up the street. It was big. I looked away for one second, and it was gone.


  10. Pingback: Cape Cod Coyotes vs. Wolves: What do we have here? | Cape Cod Wildlife Calling
    1. Shep, by following Wolf Hollow on facebook I knew that the entire pack of six wolves went out for a joy ride this past weekend. All wolves are back safe and sound and they helped out by pointing out right away where the fence was weak. Wolf Hollow needs donations to help out with their fence mending and as Shep points out, be nice to the coywolves that we share this island with. It has been shown over and over that killing a coywolf to try to eliminate them will just energize the entire pack to procreate and thus any idea of knocking their numbers down by hunting is a big mistake. We all lose, wolfotes, coywolves, and humans.

      More info:


  11. I live on a farm in VT. We have chickens and horses and purely out of necessity, cats. Since I’d rather not invite the coy-wolves into my barns to control the mouse and rat populations the cats must of course be outside to perform this task. I’ve lived here 26 years and we have always had a healthy population of coy-wolves. Much larger than southwestern coyotes they seem to be much more interested in catching rodents in the fields than bothering my animals. Once we had one take a chicken and eat it under a tractor in the barn which I felt was a fairly bold move but for the most part they leave my free range chickens and cats alone. This year a large female followed the baler around the field eating the rodents it had dislodged. I yelled at her from the yard. She looked up and trotted off a few yards and then went back to eating. I walk in the woods alone all the time and outside of seeing an occasional coy-wolf upwind of me I doubt they pose a threat to a human. My husband was just treated for Lyme Disease. After two unseasonably warm winters the rodent populations have exploded in VT and Lyme is on the rise. I am all for anything that will keep the rodents in check and that includes my cats. Yes they do kill birds, which they eat but they also kill mice, voles, moles and rats.


    1. Vivian,

      It sounds like your days are pretty full but if you happen to get a video of a coywolf following your baler eating the mice I would post it here. Throw a few coywolf photos in and I would base an article on it. You describe a nice balance that I am sure would become completely disrupted if someone nearby decided to try to eradicate the coywolves by shooting them. Hopefully sanity continues to prevail in your neck of the woods.

      My wife and dog have both gotten Lyme disease. Not fun.


  12. I was mountain biking on some trails in the Harwich Comservation and Trust a few weeks ago when I encountered a Coywolf. I have seen many coyotes in the past during mountain bike adventures in the West and the difference is unmistakable. The animal appeared pure wolf to me. I saw no coyote resemblance in this animal. When the wolf first saw me approach on my bike it took off running at a moderate pace down the trail. It did not have the loping gait of a
    Coyote. But in short order the wolf circle back to have another look at me. It appeared more curious than threatening but I began to feel alarmed to have a wolf staring at me a couple of hundred feet away. I began a slow retreat down a different trail not wanting to incite the animal to give chase. The trail I chose dead ended and I had no choice but to turn around and go back. The wolf was waiting for me and continued to stand it’s ground staring intently in my direction. I considered trying to scare it off by yelling or raising my bike over my head to appear larger but thought better of it as an aggressive posture my invoke an attack if the wolf felt threatened. I took yet another fork in the trail at a moderate pace and the wolf continued to follow at a distance. Not really stalking or chasing but definitely checking me out. I stopped not wanting to be further pursued and again we stared at one another only 100-200 feet apart. The wolf did not snarl or raise it’s hackles but I definitely felt intimidated and felt panicked as wild animals can be unpredictable. And maybe I looked more like a deer on a bike. All I wanted now was to be out of the woods and back to civilization where I would no longer be followed. I came up to the edge of a large pit where mulch and recycling and raves and debris are dumped. I dive bombed on my bike into the pit for my grand escape. I couldn’t believe I had seen a wolf on Cape Cod. I will continue to ride my bike in the woods but I think I will wear a whistle around my neck to use to discourage any more wolf pursuits.


    1. Erin, sounds like you were very smart & did the right thing. I would’ve been very nervous! You raise a good question. What should a person do if they encounter a coywolf, as you did? I think not panicking or running away was so smart!!! I read somewhere that if you run away, the coywolf would consider this acting like prey…the article went on to say you should make lots of noise & frighten it away. If I were alone in the woods with just a bike though, I’m not sure if I’d be brave enough to do that for fear of provoking, especially when it was definitely waiting & watching to see what you’d do. It sounds like there is a very fine line between showing you’re brave & provoking it, and also between running away and decisively getting away from the animal. I think a whistle is a great idea!!! (I thought of that for myself & my little boys when we take walk in the woods–haven’t bought them yet, but I think I will now!)


      1. Let’s be clear. Humans are not on the coywolf’s menu, nor, for that matter, on the wolf’s. They’ve been vilified by farmers and ranchers for targeting cattle and sheep. The reason the coywolf is here is precisely because it has plenty of prey species other than us – like rabbits, mice, rats, beavers, coons, etc. If we keep our cats and dogs in at night we’ll all be delighted with our new wild neighbors …  

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I live in Wakefield and I know we have coyotes here but I swear I saw a coywolf the other day. My neighbor saw the same thing. It looked much larger than a coyote. My first thought was “holy crap, that’s a wolf!” then I thought “you’re crazy, there are no wolves here.” I never heard of a coywolf before reading your post. Fascinating! Another neighbor of ours is a hunter and caught a deer and apparently gutted it in the back of his property. That’s exactly where I saw what I believe to be a coywolf, same as my neighbor. Could it be?


    1. Since they say to keep pet food and other types of food tightly shut outside because of coywolf I think you have guessed correctly. She probably thought her pack had a deer feast and she wasn’t invited.


  14. Thank you for posting! We saw a hybrid up on Washington Street on the Gloucester/Rockport line two weeks ago. She was crossing the street. We followed her into a neighborhood, where she gave us a look, then moved into an abandoned back yard. Bigger than a coyote and smaller than the wolves we saw at the preserve in Ipswich, she didn’t seem threatened.
    Tonight we heard some howling back toward the guarry. We’re in Bayview, and hear it often.
    We respect their presence and would live to know more!


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