Coydogs and Dogotes
Northeast Outdoors Experience Staff
Coyotes are a growing problem within today’s ecosystem in many parts of the country. This prolific member of the dog family has few natural predators. In many areas, the population is growing so rapidly that they are becoming considered not only a nuisance, but a threat to both the wild game present, but to the domestic animals and even in some cases humans that are within their territory. As human encroachment becomes prevalent with the constant development of land for houses, shopping malls and other “necessities of life” from the human perspective, we often forget that the wildlife around us must adapt to those changes too.
As resident wild game populations are forced to survive in smaller and smaller parcels of undeveloped land, they begin to expand their territory in order to find suitable space and food to perpetuate the species. Overpopulation is a problem as members of any species are concentrated into smaller spaces as the opportunities for breeding become increased. Considering that the food sources remain at best stable, if not decrease, the incidences of “automobile conservation” and wild game being spotted in the middle of major cities should be more than enough evidence of the damage we, as humans, are inflicting upon the wildlife around us simply by being human. A drive down most any road or highway with various animals lying dead in or beside the road should be ample proof of the infringement humans are having on wildlife habitat.
One example of the effects of this problem is the coyote. As members of the dog family, coyotes are highly intelligent, extremely mobile and prolific breeders. The expansion of their national range has become well known. In the mid 20th century spotting a coyote in New Hampshire or Maine was more than reason enough to brag at the local coffee shop. Today, the bragging has turned to a completely different perspective as coyotes are beginning to show up living beneath mobile homes on the fringes of big cities or are seen trotting down Main Street of major towns and cities in full daylight.
As coyotes come in contact with the domesticated members of the canus family, two things can happen. If it is under normal circumstances, the chances of a fight to the death are more than good. If however one of the animals is in “heat” and receptive to breeding, interbreeding can often take place. When a female coyote is bred by a domestic dog the result is called a dogote while a female dog bred by a coyote is referred to as a coydog. The resulting offspring are fertile and fully capable of reproduction. When cross-breeding occurs, the male of the breeding pair of animals is always stated first in the resulting offspring.
As this phenomenon is not as common as some people tend to think, it definitely does happen. There are often problems with the resulting offspring such as reduced fertility and certain genetic diseases. Coyotes have also been known to interbreed with wolves with some authorities even suspecting the Red Wolf is the result of cross breeding coyotes with the Gray Wolf. The areas with the highest incidences of coydogs and dogotes are directly related to the density of coyotes in any given region. The more coyotes present per square mile, the higher the incidence of cross breeding. A management study was done in Ohio in seventy one counties that yielded 414 skulls. Of those skulls 87% were pure coyote (379), 6% were feral dogs (25) and 2% were coydogs/dogyotes (10).
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