Wildlife biologist: Unlikely a coywolf was spotted in Shelton

A state environmental official said he doubts it was a coywolf that a Shelton resident recently spotted in his yard.

“It looks like a coyote with a nice winter coat,” Paul Rego, a state wildlife biologist, said after viewing a photo taken on Jan. 3 by a resident on Big Horn Road, showing an animal in the resident’s yard.

“What strikes me is the narrow muzzle on it,” Rego said.

Big Horn Road is in the White Hills neighborhood, off Beardsley Road and near the Monroe border.

The resident said he thought the animal might be a coywolf but he wasn’t certain.

Avoiding a hybrid name

Rego said there are some coyotes with a small amount of wolf DNA in them, but most biologists prefer to just call them “coyotes” and avoid using a hybrid name such as “coywolf.”

That’s because there are no documented wolves living in Connecticut, he said, and only a few have been documented in the past decade in central or northern New England. He said wolves are more prevalent in Quebec, Canada.

Rego said this essentially means there are no wolves to breed with coyotes in Connecticut.

He said while it may be “technically correct” to use the term coywolf for a coyote with some wolf DNA in it, it’s somewhat misleading.

“To say ‘coywolf’ suggests it’s like 50/50, but I believe the genetic makeup of these involve a much higher percentage of coyote,” Rego said.

He also said a coyote with some wolf in it in this area is almost certainly “far from first-generation cross-breed.”

Public sightings

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) receives many calls about coyote sightings in Connecticut. Calls from people claiming to see a wolf are rarer, and calls from those who think they have seen a coywolf are even rarer, according to Rego.

Some animals kept as pets can be hard to differentiate from wolves, he said, partly because there are dogs that have small amounts of wolf DNA in them.