New genetic study concludes Eastern Wolves are hybrids of Gray Wolves and Coyotes, and Coyotes in eastern U.S. are Wolf-Coyote-Dog hybrids; most Florida wildlife pros say Coyotes seen in Tampa area are of the western strain; Boston researchers find web-based search data a source of early detection for Dengue outbreaks; a Rabies report from Colorado; and CDC stats indicate Pennsylvania leads country in Lyme Disease cases.

Red Wolf (canis rufus). Photo by Dave Pape. Wikimedia Commons.

Eastern U.S. 05/31/11 Wolves in the eastern United States are hybrids of gray wolves and coyotes, while the region’s coyotes actually are wolf-coyote-doghybrids, according to a new genetic study that is adding fuel to a longstanding debate over the origins of two endangered species.

Dr. Robert Wayne

The study is unlikely to impact the management of the endangered red wolf in North Carolina and the eastern Canadian wolf in Ontario, but it offers fresh insight into their genetic makeup and concludes that those wolves are hybrids that developed over the last few hundred years. Some scientists have argued that the red wolf, Canis rufus, and the eastern Canadian wolf, Canis lycaon, evolved from an ancient eastern wolf species distinct from the larger gray wolf, Canis lupus, that is found in western North America. Wolf experts who adhere to that theory say the new study is interesting but falls short of proving anything. They say it doesn’t explain why hybrids appear only in some places and note that western wolves don’t hybridize with coyotes but often kill them.

Dr. Roland Kays

In the study, published online earlier this month in the peer-reviewed journal Genome Research, 16 researchers from around the globe led by Robert Wayne of the University of California-Los Angeles, used information from the dog genome — the animal’s entire genetic code — to survey the genetic diversity in dogs, wolves and coyotes. It was the most detailed genetic study of any wild vertebrate species to date, using molecular genetic techniques to look at over 48,000 markers throughout the full genome, said Roland Kays, curator of mammals at the New York State Museum and a co-author of the study.  (For complete article go to                                                     


Florida 05/31/11 by John Haughey – Coyote sightings have increased dramatically in Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties in the last decade, but there is confusion about what animal, exactly, people are seeing. There are four possibilities:

  • The iconic balsa-boned songdog of the American West, usually tawny-brown solitary scavengers that rarely weigh more than 30 pounds.
  • Coydogs,” a one-generation hybrid, often sterile, of assorted colors and sizes that will “pack up” with other feral dogs. They are often the first indication that there are coyotes in an area, but rarely den with true coyotes.
  • The Eastern coyote, a pack-hunter of assorted colors that often resemble German Shepherds, can weigh up to 80 pounds, and, some biologists contend, is a hybridized wolf that has been migrating south from northern Ontario for more than a century.
  • A combination of the three.

Most state biologists, local animal control officials, and professional trappers say the vast majority of coyotes seen in PascoPinellas, and Hillsborough counties are the typical western coyote. “Most of what I see are more of the natural type,” said trapper David Robert Lueck of St. Petersburg. “I don’t see a whole lot of the hybridized type.” “Everything down south will be your small, slinky coyote type,” said Tim Smith, regional manager for Animal Action Trappers in St. Petersburg. “There are larger coyotes in northern part of the state – 80-90 pounders that look like German Shepherds. But, they’re not this far south.” “Ninety-nine out of 100 are the smaller strain,” said trapper Michael Perez, of HHS Land Management in Land O’ Lakes, “but we’ve got some (Eastern coyote) packs active in Pasco.” A Wisconsin native who grew up hunting Eastern coyote, Perez knows one when he sees one. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I’ve seen a few pushing 80 pounds” near the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Area in New Port Richey. Clearwater Air Park general manager Barbara Cooper is “absolutely” convinced that the coyotes haunting the airport’s hangars and runways are not typical coyotes. “These look like big dogs – on the German Shepherd-looking side,” she said, adding there’s something else she’s noticed: “They travel together, four at a time.” That’s an important distinction because coyotes are solitary hunters while wolves hunt in packs. The behavioral link between Eastern coyotes and wolves was genetically confirmed by a State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry study in 2002, and then again in 2004 in a joint University of Maine/Cornell University study. The conclusion of both studies: The Eastern coyote is a hybridized wolf. Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Southwest Region office in Lakeland, said many FWC biologists are skeptical of those studies. Even if it were possible for coyotes and wolves to inter-breed and produce a super-predator ideally adapted to urban and suburban environments, he said, that’s not what people are seeing in Pasco,Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties. “When you see the bigger dogs, you’re seeing coyote-dog hybrids – ‘coydogs,'” he said.

Global 05/31/11 Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and have found web-based search data to be a viable source of information for early detection and monitoring of outbreaks of dengue, an emerging mosquito-borne virus found in tropical areas of the world.

Dr. John Brownstein

Because search data allows the capture of disease-related queries in near real time, it could help public health officials in the more than 100 countries affected by dengue respond more quickly to nascent epidemics.  A team from the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP), led by John Brownstein, PhD, together with collaborators at Google, published these findings today in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. An online tool developed by the researchers based on the findings is now available at  The team’s work on the dengue tool – which tracks epidemics of dengue using web search results provided by Google – shows that, when compared against available national surveillance data, web-based search data is a viable, rapid source of information for early detection and monitoring of dengue outbreaks. (For complete article go to

Colorado 05/30/11 by Anthony A. Mestas – A skunk found east of town has tested positive for rabies, the third in the county since August, officials said Friday. Other skunks in La Junta and Lamar also have tested positive over the past few months. Bent County Public Health is warning people to vaccinate their pets against rabies and avoid wildlife.  For more information about rabies or about whom to call for response to a wild or suspect animal, call Bent County Public Health at 719-456-0517 or 1-877-462-2911.

Pennsylvania 05/31/11 by Robert Herriman – Whether it’s due to an increase in the white-tailed deer population or a shift in population to rural areas of the state or some combination thereof, in the world of Lyme disease, the Keystone State is king. According to new numbers released from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease in the state has grown 78 percent in the past decade, from 2,781 cases to 4,950 cases. Areas that were once immune to the disease are now experiencing the tick-borne disease, in some cases significantly. Pennsylvania in 2009 had more confirmed cases of Lyme disease than New Jersey (4598), New York (4134), Massachusetts (4019) and even Connecticut (2751), the place where the disease reared its ugly head back in 1975. Lyme disease is the #1 vector borne disease reported in the US. In 2008, Lyme was the 6th most common notifiable disease in 2008. The CDC says that 95% of all Lyme cases in the US were from just 12 states. Lyme disease is tick borne, bacterial infection that is relatively common in the United States. Ixodes scapularis is the vector for Lyme disease in the Northeast. In addition, it is also the vector for human granulocytic anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Because of this, co-infections with multiple diseases are seen.


One response to “New genetic study concludes Eastern Wolves are hybrids of Gray Wolves and Coyotes, and Coyotes in eastern U.S. are Wolf-Coyote-Dog hybrids; most Florida wildlife pros say Coyotes seen in Tampa area are of the western strain; Boston researchers find web-based search data a source of early detection for Dengue outbreaks; a Rabies report from Colorado; and CDC stats indicate Pennsylvania leads country in Lyme Disease cases.

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