"This does not mean that we have massive, wolf-like coyotes roaming around here in Virginia," Bozarth said. "Coyotes with wolf ancestry have differently shaped jaws, which may allow them to fill different ecological niches. They tend to hunt small prey and scavenge large game, so hybrid coyotes might be helpful in controlling the overly abundant deer population."
Camera trap photo of a coyote taken Feb. 15, 2008, at Quantico Marine Base, Virigina. (Courtesy of Quantico Fish and Wildlife Office.)
That's the good news (although not for the individual deer). The bad is that while coyote populations have been expanding, wolf populations have become endangered. Hybridization with coyotes is now a major threat to the recovery of wolves.
"For the past decade, our lab has developed and used noninvasive techniques to monitor and survey rare and endangered species in various regions of the world, and in this study, we were able to show that noninvasive techniques can also be an effective tool for tracking the origins and movement patterns of this elusive canid," co-author Jesús Maldonado, an SCBI research geneticist, was quoted as saying. "The admixed coyotes have also been found further south, into North Carolina, which brings the hybridized coyote into the range of the critically endangered red wolf, further complicating the issue."