Posts Tagged ‘evolution in action’

Know Evolution (No Evolution)

Uncategorized | Posted by Chris Parker
Aug 22 2009

There’s an interesting problem plaguing an area in Canada east of Toronto. It seems that hybrid animals that some are calling coywolfs are wreaking havoc on the livestock up there. Coywolfs are a hybrid between wolfs and coyotes.

It’s an interesting story but here’s the problem. Trent University geneticist Bradley White, called the situation, quote; “evolution in action”. Well, no its not!

Its certainly not evolution in the sense that “evolution” is an English word. Could geneticist, Bradley White be one of those Canadians for whom English is a second language?

In what sense is offspring being born with 50% of its DNA coming from one parent and 50% of its DNA coming from the other, evolution? Was Mr. White’s own birth, which in every important sense occurred just like that of the coywolf’s, also evolution in action?

The fact of the matter is; these hybrid creatures came into being in the same way that the English bulldog, the French poodle and other canine breeds came into existence–by breeding, be it controlled by man or naturally. From one breeding pair of canines on the ark came; German shepherds, poodles, wolves, coyotes, foxes, boxers, etc. etc. These creatures are a product of the variability built into living creatures by God–just like horses and zebras….s8int.com

TheRecord.com – CanadaWorld – Meet the coywolf: Hybrid animals plaguing area east of Toronto

By Carola Vyhnak, Toronto Star

Is it a coyote? Is it a wolf?

Yes and yes. It’s a “coywolf.”

The predators that are plaguing Durham Region and showing up in urban areas appear to be an emerging species resulting from wolves and coyotes interbreeding.

The larger, highly adaptable animals “have the wolf characteristics of pack hunting and aggression and the coyote characteristics of lack of fear of human-developed areas,” says Trent University geneticist Bradley White, who’s been studying the hybrids for 12 years.

We’re seeing “evolution in action,” he says.

But that combination of genetic material from both species has spelled trouble for farmers, who are losing a growing number of livestock to predators.

They report attacks by animals that are bigger, bolder and smarter than regular coyotes. They say hunting in packs to prey on sheep and cattle in broad daylight is becoming a common behaviour.

Durham Region farmers have suffered the most damage to livestock in the province. Last year the food and agriculture ministry paid out a total compensation of $168,000 in the region for 545 dead or injured animals.

Commonly called eastern coyotes, the creatures are actually a mixture of western coyote and eastern wolf that comes from a constantly evolving gene pool, says White, chair and professor of biology in Peterborough.

Going back 100 years, deforestation, wolf control programs and changing habitat, ecosystems and prey conspired to drive down the wolf population. Meanwhile, the number of coyotes – whose original range was in western North America – grew, thanks to their ability to adapt and reproduce with ease. The two species started to interbreed, White explains.

“In many ways, this animal is a creation of human impact on the planet,” says White.

Although the coywolf hybrid has only recently been verified through genetic research, White believes they started appearing in southern Algonquin Park back in the 1920s.

Colleague Paul Wilson, a wildlife genetics specialist, says the genetic gumbo from which coywolves emerge produces some that are more wolf-like, while others have more coyote characteristics. But they’re definitely bigger.

“Some of these are 80-pound animals, double the size of a typical coyote that used to be 40 pounds.”

But there’s no cause for alarm, says John Pisapio, a wildlife biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources, which is studying the role of coyotes and wolves in the ecosystem.

Hybrids may be larger but there’s no evidence the population as a whole is more aggressive or prone to aberrant behaviour, he says.

He agrees predation on livestock is a concern – they do kill sheep and smaller animals – but insists attacks on cattle are unusual.

“As a biologist I find it hard to explain how a coyote brings down a 900-pound steer.”

In some cases, coyotes might just be feeding on an animal that died from other causes, he says.

The population growth is a natural upswing following a mange epidemic that wiped out big numbers eight or nine years ago, he adds.

Pisapio says instances of fearlessness or brazen attacks are usually the result of coyotes that have come to associate food with people and lose their natural fear of humans.

That belief is echoed by Johnny, “The Critter Gitter,” who didn’t want his last name used because people don’t like that he kills problem wildlife for a living.

“I kill coyotes. I don’t sugarcoat it,” he says.

But he feels sympathy for them.

“Humans are to blame for making monsters of them,” he says. Coyotes are attracted by pet food and garbage left lying around in urban areas, and deadstock on farms.

They’re not all bad and often get the blame when dogs kill livestock, he says. Johnny also doubts they’re making a regular meal of cattle. During the 30 years he’s worked in the province, he’s seen only a few cases of “large, healthy animals taken down by coyotes.”

But as coywolves become more urbanized and their relationship with people continues to evolve, city dwellers can expect problems, says White, suggesting a control program may be needed at some point.

“They will clearly bump into human activities, and there will be pets eaten in Rouge Valley.”