Living in Liminal Times

When I do my morning meditation, I always spend some time on mycelia, sending them respect, strength, health, and good wishes. Now, I’m going to add the coywolf, a new animal in my urban (!) land base. How awe-inspiringly spectacular is it to be alive as a new species establishes itself upon Mamma Gaia? We are, in the words of the song, stardust; we are golden. And here we are, directly in the best spot in the garden. What more perfect example could there be of the fact that all acts of love and pleasure are (magical) rituals of the Goddess, creating wonderful new things?

Interbreeding between animal species usually leads to offspring less vigorous than either parent—if they survive at all. But the combination of wolf, coyote and dog DNA that resulted from this reproductive necessity generated an exception. The consequence has been booming numbers of an extraordinarily fit new animal (see picture) spreading through the eastern part of North America. Some call this creature the eastern coyote. Others, though, have dubbed it the “coywolf”. Whatever name it goes by, Roland Kays of North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, reckons it now numbers in the millions.

The mixing of genes that has created the coywolf has been more rapid, pervasive and transformational than many once thought. Javier Monzón, who worked until recently at Stony Brook University in New York state (he is now at Pepperdine University, in California) studied the genetic make-up of 437 of the animals, in ten north-eastern states plus Ontario. He worked out that, though coyote DNA dominates, a tenth of the average coywolf’s genetic material is dog and a quarter is wolf.

I’m now mad to get to see (and, oh, yes! please! hear) one of these creatures.

And even their cries blend those of their ancestors. The first part of a howl resembles a wolf’s (with a deep pitch), but this then turns into a higher-pitched, coyote-like yipping.

The animal’s range has encompassed America’s entire north-east, urban areas included, for at least a decade, and is continuing to expand in the south-east following coywolves’ arrival there half a century ago. This is astonishing. Purebred coyotes never managed to establish themselves east of the prairies. Wolves were killed off in eastern forests long ago. But by combining their DNA, the two have given rise to an animal that is able to spread into a vast and otherwise uninhabitable territory. Indeed, coywolves are now living even in large cities, like Boston, Washington[,] and New York. According to Chris Nagy of the Gotham Coyote Project, which studies them in New York, the Big Apple already has about 20, and numbers are rising.

Some speculate that this adaptability to city life is because coywolves’ dog DNA has made them more tolerant of people and noise, perhaps counteracting the genetic material from wolves—an animal that dislikes humans. And interbreeding may have helped coywolves urbanise in another way, too, by broadening the animals’ diet. Having versatile tastes is handy for city living. Coywolves eat pumpkins, watermelons and other garden produce, as well as discarded food. They also eat rodents and other smallish mammals.

I wonder who will be the first person to have a coywolf as their spirit animal? To shape shift into a coywolf? To go into trance and talk to a coywolf?

Welcome new North American beings. I am new here. You are new here. Humans had a hand in your evolution. May you have a role in our evolution, as well.

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2 responses to “Living in Liminal Times

  1. We have what we think is a coy-dog. She appeared in my yard as a puppy. I thought someone put her out. She is very friendly towards the family but she also has a wildness. She hunts rats even if she has food to eat. Like a coyote, she retained soft fur into adulthood. Dog puppies loose their soft fur around age six months. She has black spots on her tongue and golden eyes both of which are common in coyotes. We’ve never revealed her possible ancestry because we fear someone may insist on putting down a ‘pest’ animal.

  2. They will have truly arrived when sufficient pack discipline exists to hunt deer through the Winter snows. A long lost balance will then return to the Eastern woodland.

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