Coywolves: A threatening predator is lurking in RI, MA backyards
It's a cold October night and Tyler, a 9-month-old Plott hound mix, has been lost near Albro Woods in Middletown for four days.
Suddenly, a coyote approaches.
“It's becoming a bigger and bigger and bigger problem in this area,” said Jamie Genereux, a professional pet tracker who captured the standoff.
Genereux said encounters between eastern coyotes -- some people call them coywolves -- and pets are becoming far too common.
“They did DNA testing and they found that it's a mixture of wolf and coyote,” said Genereux. “And these things are -- we've had many cases where they come right out of the woods and grab the dog while the people are standing right there in the yard.”
Charles Brown, a wildlife biologist for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, shared similar sentiments.
“There have been some studies done, looking at the genetics of coyotes here in the northeastern United States that would indicate that at some point in the past, coyotes had interbred with wolves,” Brown said.
Brown said the animals didn't arrive in southern New England until the 1960s.
Now, they're living in just about every Rhode Island community. In fact, sightings reported to The Conservation Agency’s Narragansett Bay Coyote Study indicate the animals are even thriving in urban areas.
“Coyotes are very adaptable, very intelligent animals and will take advantage of whatever food sources are available,” said Brown.
People are often providing that food with unsecured trash bins or compost piles. In some cases, people are actively feeding them.
Brown said that’s a bad idea. It can cause the coyotes to become too comfortable around people and homes.
“One guy lost his dog right near the airport in Warwick,” said Genereux. “It's a busy area. There isn't even any woods around there, you know?”
After several years tracking lost pets -- many snatched by coyotes -- Genereux said he's noticed some alarming behavioral changes.
“Ten years ago, the only dogs getting eaten by coyotes would be 10 to 15 pounds, you know?” he said. “Now, we've had them kill a German shepherd, which is a big dog.”
Fortunately for Tyler, his barking set off a one of Genereux’s noise-activated cameras before it was too late. Tyler's owner raced to the area and reunited with his lost pup as coyotes howled in the distance.