The coywolf is a coyote-wolf hybrid found throughout eastern North America, from Canada south to Virginia.
For decades, people incorrectly labeled coywolves as eastern coyotes. However, the large size of the coywolves — the animals are bigger than western coyotes, but smaller than wolves — has confused both scientists and laypeople alike since researchers first described the animals in 1969.
Over the years, scientists have proposed a number of hypotheses to explain the canines’ large size. Recent studies have shown that eastern coyotes have both coyote (Canis latrans) and eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) ancestry. In 2010, a study published in the journal Northeastern Naturalist argued that eastern coyotes should more appropriately be termed “coywolves” (Canis latrans x C. lycaon) to reflect their hybrid origin.
Many scientists now recognize the coywolf as one of four wild canine species in North America, the others being gray wolves (C. lupus), eastern wolves (C. lycaon) and western coyotes (C. latrans).