Passport
Full Episode
Meet the Coywolf

The coywolf, a mixture of western coyote and eastern wolf, is a remarkable new hybrid carnivore that is taking over territories once roamed by wolves and slipping unnoticed into our cities. Its appearance is very recent — within the last 90 years — in evolutionary terms, a blip in time. Beginning in Canada but by no means ending there, the story of how it came to be is an extraordinary tale of how quickly adaptation and evolution can occur, especially when humans interfere. Tag along as scientists study this new top predator, tracking it from the wilderness of Ontario’s Algonquin Park, through parking lots, alleys and backyards in Toronto all the way to the streets of New York City.

Transcript Print

NARRATOR: A new wild animal has emerged on the scene in North America.

They have long legs, they have thick fur, they look very wolf-like.

NARRATOR: These stealthy creatures have slipped unnoticed into our cities... MAN: We have a medium size carnivore living in our midst, a formidable creature which is going to do very well.

NARRATOR: This new top predator lives alongside us -- it's mastered the art of blending into the background and is seen only by the lucky few.

Meet the Coywolf.

[Theme music playing] NARRATOR: A mysterious new creature has emerged from the Canadian wilderness.

A hybrid animal that is both fascinating and bewildering scientists.

It's a new kind of coyote that looks and behaves differently from its ancestors.

Scientists say it may be the most adaptable animal on the planet -- and it's moving through the landscape of North America at a startling pace, establishing a new top predator on lands once roamed by wolves.

MAN: It seems as though the coyotes in Cape Breton are different, and certainly there have been incidents across the province of Nova Scotia that would be classified as aggressive.

They're just not behaving the way they do in most other places.

MAN: Over the last 30 years or so, there has been a general escalation of seriousness of encounters between people and coyotes.

It started out with the coyote on the side of the road that obviously has been fed, is not afraid of people, and just kind of stands and watches.

And then -- that was through the 1980s -- and in the late '80s a young girl was bitten in Cheticamp campground.

Through the '90s there were a number of incidents where coyotes were following people and chasing them.

And then in 2003, a young woman was bitten twice; and then in 2009, unfortunately, Taylor Mitchell was killed on Skyline Trail.

It's kind of hard for people to fathom that a coyote could actually be responsible for the death of a person, and I included.

When I first started investigating the incident, I was the lead involved in the response to this incident.

I thought, 'Bear.'

And then it was very clear within a few minutes it was obvious that it was not a bear, it was a group of coyotes.

NARRATOR: A coyote has never before been known to kill an adult human.

Coyotes have a natural aversion to people, so the escalating boldness of this new kind of coyote in Nova Scotia has baffled scientists.

They believe that the absence of deer and snowshoe hare in Cape Breton has emboldened these animals to take on larger prey, including moose.

MUNTZ: We know that this is not an incident that is unrelated to the hand of humans as well.

There is a portion of the population that think that feeding wildlife is a good thing.

It's much easier to get a real good look at one if you throw the sandwich out the side of the road and it comes about another 25 or 30 meters towards you.

[Vehicle passes] And it's just hard for people to perceive that what they've just done is wrong.

It's harmless, it's just one sandwich.

NARRATOR: This only has to happen once or twice before these quick learners catch on.

They're intelligent animals, and they're watching us.

They may even be figuring us out.

There's much that is unknown about this new creature, but what scientists do know is that it's a hybrid between a coyote and a wolf.

In the New York State Museum we have an archive of coyotes and wolves in the mammal collections.

And so, you can tell if you look at the skulls -- for example here's a wolf and a coyote.

So, you can see you've got a large predator of elk and moose and deer, and the smaller Western coyote which typically eats things like rabbits and mice and fruit.

And then you have, in between these, the Eastern coyote.

It's much larger than the Western coyote, but still quite a bit smaller than the wolf.

And so this is what we found to be a large type of coyote.

That's got extra wide -- if you look at the width of the skull, it's especially wide, and that lets it have more musculature to go down to the lower jaw, to be able grab things better, especially larger prey, such as deer.

And then, if you look at the teeth, the teeth on this Eastern coyote have fewer gaps between them as the teeth on this western coyote.

So, one of my student's likes to say it's a coyote-like skull with wolf-like teeth, and it's because the teeth are so large in the Eastern coyotes.

NARRATOR: Because these animals originated in the East, they are called Eastern coyotes.

They also go by the more apt name, the coywolf.

In Cape Breton's vast and rugged landscape, Canid specialist Simon Gadbois is trying to assess coywolf population numbers.

He's trained his dog to track them, but first seeks them out using his own skills.

GADBOIS: Coyotes being a very social species, they will always stay in touch with each other, even if they are far apart.

They will howl, they will yap, they will use a fairly wide range of vocalizations.

[Gadbois imitating calls] [Animal calling back] When I compare coyotes to wolves I think the coyotes are the jazz players of howling.

You know, it's all over the place, a lot of variation.

Sometimes one can sound like four.

It is quite remarkable.

So, they are really sending a strong message here... Like they're not going away, they're getting closer.

They want to make sure they're heard.

Oh, yeah, it's good.

[Animals calling] They're getting closer.

NARRATOR: And they're getting closer than you think.

Despite being cautious of people, some scientists say even paranoid, coywolves have slipped into our cities.

And, despite their size, these remarkable carnivores move undetected through our neighborhoods.

Studying coywolves is a new area of science and no easy task.

These animals are difficult to spot, let alone research.

Biologist John Pisapio has the inside track on how these creatures move through and exploit the urban landscape.

PISAPIO: The resident female here is giving us really good data.

She's currently on a 15-minute interval on her GPS collar.

NARRATOR: Pisapio has managed to trap and put radio collars on a few coywolves, or Eastern coyotes, in and around Toronto.

PISAPIO: The benefit of radio-collaring and putting GPS collars on these Eastern coyotes, it really does allow us to understand and look into their world in a very numeric fashion.

Her movements yesterday, she covered her entire territory in a single day, which is often the case, and we're going to try and meet up where she last left off last night.

We have a flood of data come in, in terms of locations, where they go and what they do, but there's also the reality that you're getting a glimpse of their personal lives.

The route we're taking here, most notably the underpass of the highway, it's a relatively safe access to where she's holding up in the middle of a highway cloverleaf.

You know, obviously a really risky and dangerous place to get to, but she accesses it under the bridge we just went under.

If she had to cross the road every day she wouldn't last very long.

NARRATOR: Despite all the technology, Pisapio rarely sees his study subjects.

PISAPIO: There she goes.

The data shows us that this female comes here on a regular basis.

Ironically, in the midst of the most people of all, that's where they find a place to rest and avoid people.

There isn't anyone coming here, no dogs, no people.

The roar of the highway never ends, it's 24 hours a day, but all of that's inanimate to the animals, they find a resting spot and they utilize these places.

NARRATOR: The mystery of how the Eastern coyote or coywolf came to be, is being investigated 200 miles to the north.

Geneticist Bradley White has spent the best part of his career uncovering the evolution of coywolves.

Here, in over 3,000 square miles of protected wilderness, he and his team discovered the first evidence of a new hybrid, which many scientists doubted even existed.

WHITE: This is the place where the Eastern wolves first mated with the Western coyote.

This strip of land here, this is the birthplace of the coywolf.

NARRATOR: Professor White has been working closely with John Benson, a field biologist, who has embedded himself in the Algonquin wild in an effort to unlock the genetic code of the coywolf.

When Benson manages to trap and sedate one, it gives him a rare chance to examine the offspring of a coyote and a wolf up close.

BENSON: What we found is that there is a lot of hybridization in the area between wolves and coyotes.

Just a little over a third of the animals were hybrids in and around Algonquin Park.

So, there's a lot of animals that are mostly wolf, mostly coyote -- but then there's a lot of hybrids, as well.

The question on a lot of people's mind is probably why would wolves breed with coyotes?

And that's essentially the question we had when we started this project.

WHITE: To understand the history of the coywolf, you really gotta go back to before Columbus set foot onto the continent.

From the Mississippi over -- so, this whole eastern part of North America would have been deciduous forest -- so, forest plus deer.

So, the Eastern wolf would have occupied all of this.

So, now Europeans come across, so, massive movement of settlers, they cut down more and more of the trees.

First thing they see is Eastern wolves causing them problems with their livestock.

These guys start killing wolves, poisoning programs, hunting.

So, as this whole area was deforested, de-wolfed, it provided opportunity.

NARRATOR: Smaller coyotes from the southwest seized this opportunity and began to move northward, occupying territory now abandoned by wolves.

The next 300 years saw coyotes arrive at one of the last safe havens for wolves, Algonquin Park.

Here, the wolf population depleted by persecution began to see their natural enemy, the coyote, as a potential mate, which led to the birth of the coywolf around 1919.

BENSON: The Algonquin Park region seems to be unique, at least in terms of wolf-coyote hybridization, for a number of reasons.

The most important of which is that, that's really one of the few, if not the only places, that we find Eastern wolves.

Certainly the only place that we find a lot of Eastern wolves.

And Eastern wolves are the key to understanding hybridization between wolves and coyotes.

NARRATOR: Eastern wolves are the only kind of wolf that can successfully mate with both coyotes and other wolves, including grey wolves.

They act as a genetic bridge between these two distinct species -- coyote and wolf.

Elsewhere, wolves kill coyotes.

But incredibly, only here in Algonquin Park, they've become family.

One of the revelations of Benson's research is that coyotes and Eastern wolves continue to mate and bring first-generation coywolves into the world.

And he's discovered that some coyotes, wolves, and coywolves continue to live in packs and raise their young together in and around Algonquin Park.

Man, these mosquitos are fierce.

NARRATOR: Benson and his team take blood and genetic samples from each of the pups to send back to the lab.

The data are collected and recorded as part of a long-term study to track the evolution of this new predator.

BENSON: The first thing on your mind when I catch an animal is, well, is this a wolf, a coyote, or a hybrid.

And when you catch a wolf, you know you've got a wolf if it's got a big blocky head, the heads are sort of noticeably larger.

Particularly when you have a wolf pup, it's sort of obvious, they haven't grown into their heads yet.

Coyotes don't really have that, they tend to have a smaller, narrower head, a longer muzzle, pointy ears.

And hybrids, again, were intermediate.

This animal has a bigger head than a coyote, but not quite as big as a wolf.

And so these were things that I would use in the field to make sort of a first assessment without genetics of whether this was a wolf, a coyote, or a hybrid.

NARRATOR: Larger than the original coyote, with longer legs and bigger paws built for speed, this new hybrid has a larger jaw and shorter snout.

Its ears are smaller, and its tail is more wolf-like than coyote.

The coywolf is an impressive creature that continues to evolve, constantly learning and improving as it navigates new landscapes and takes on new challenges.

WHITE: I mean, I am upset that I'm at the end of my career rather than the beginning, because I think this story, the exciting part of this story, is yet to come.

NARRATOR: Scientists have puzzled over how coywolves traveled from their home in the Northern Ontario wilderness to the urban core.

By analyzing his GPS tracking data, John Pisapio made a fascinating discovery.

PISAPIO: The initial expectation was it would have had to have been ravines and golf courses, things like that, but we were finding and radio-collaring animals in places where those connections did not exist.

The one connection that did exist were railway tracks.

So, what this means is that they move back and forth across the urban landscape using railway tracks.

And then when those tracks intersect a park or a ravine or a golf course, that then provides a new opportunity for territory and residing in the urban landscape as opposed to just moving through.

Most wildlife doesn't do well in the presence of people, in the presence of development, but here we have one that is not only persisting, but thriving.

NARRATOR: And they're not wanting for food in cities, either.

In many cases, the urban landscape generates more food than a rural one -- raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, rats, mice, waterfowl -- all add up to a good meal for a coywolf.

As it becomes clear that coywolves are here to stay, scientists are puzzling over how these animals are doing so well in cities and how their success might affect us.

PISAPIO: This location here, we have a family right on the fringe of all of this new development.

Brand new, very large, very expansive subdivisions.

And it's a fundamental change, not only in terms of loss of habitat, but in terms of all of what comes with that urban environment.

We're really interested to learn what the dynamic will be -- are they displaced, or do they stay here and use what's left for them?

PISAPIO: There's widespread agreement that this hybrid between the eastern wolf and the coyotes are one of the smartest, most intelligent animals we have.

And getting the picture of what these animals do the urban context is something that we really do need to understand better than we do now.

NARRATOR: As the coywolf has moved into cities, so has its ancestor, the original coyote.

Studying urban coyotes may offer insight into how coywolves are tackling city life.

Biologist Stan Gehrt and his team have been following radio-collared coyotes from Chicago's downtown core to the suburbs for over twelve years, and they've kept them on their toes.

GEHRT: Attempting to study coyotes is basically an exercise in humility.

And actually I think that's pretty good for scientists.

Every time we think that we have them figured out, we find out that we've underestimated them.

And that's been pretty much the constant theme in my research over the years, that's been kind of this dance with them, which I'm basically losing most of the time.

NARRATOR: The radio collars lead Gehrt's team close to den sites.

But even with GPS tracking, finding the actual den is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Coyotes go to great lengths to keep their dens secret, to protect their young.

WOMAN: Do you want a flashlight GEHRT: Can't see, I was mainly smelling.

GEHRT: It may take us hours, or in some cases it's taken us almost a week to try and find a particular coyote's den.

Even with radio collars.

-Do you see my hand? -MAN: Yeah.

GEHRT: No, I think that if there were pups we would have come across them.

Oh, man, that... And part of the problem is that they are also adjusting to us and moving to us.

So, if we don't score right off the bat, then often we have a difficult challenge ahead of us.

What we want to do is spread out.

You don't have to go too far apart 'cause it's easy to miss something.

Yeah.

GEHRT: Okay.

GEHRT: I can't see you. Holy cow.

WOMAN: You want to come in? There's not much room.

GEHRT: Heidi, first day, first one.

Awesome!

HEIDI: How old do you think they are?

GEHRT: Probably four weeks, maybe?

All right, Evan, I'll grab one and give it to you.

Once we find a den and we are able to get the pups out, we identify them, we weigh them, we determine what their sex is, and then we measure them, look at their teeth.

MAN: Only the canine incisors are in.

GEHRT: If they're old enough we'll draw a little bit of blood and then we'll microchip them, which is the same kind of microchip that you use for your pets.

And then as quickly as possible we get them back into the den.

NARRATOR: This large urban park just outside O'Hare Airport is visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Few if any of them would ever know that there was a den site overflowing with pups right beside one of the most popular hiking trails.

GEHRT: We found eight pups in this den, but that's pretty typical for the Chicago area.

Well, that elevated litter size is one indication that life is very good in the city, and that maybe their population is growing.

That doesn't mean we don't already have a lot of coyotes, they just haven't reached their carrying capacity yet.

NARRATOR: These animals have a unique ability to expand their population numbers to the maximum amount the landscape can sustain.

When resources are plentiful, females can go into estrous early and increase their litter sizes.

This ability to adjust to their environment makes coyotes one of the most resilient mammals on the planet.

GEHRT: That's him.

NARRATOR: By intensely studying coyotes for over a decade, Gehrt and his team have made some startling discoveries.

Even without a wolf gene in their mix, Chicago coyotes have evolved to be bigger than their ancestors, though still smaller than a coywolf.

And, some of these city coyotes are living up to four times longer than coyotes in the countryside.

We've a few that have been able to survive to their 11th, 12th, and we may actually have one creeping up to their 13th year.

We originally captured him in the spring of 2004 as an adult in the prime of his life.

He's been living in a marsh surrounded by a subdivision.

He doesn't have the benefit of any large protected parks, or any protected areas.

So, he's been able to live in these downtown locations using every little small open space available to him.

NARRATOR: Like coyotes, coywolves have found success in urban areas, and still kept their rural roots.

Sheep farmers in Southern Ontario have seen a rise in the coywolf population, and some say these animals may even be getting smarter.

MAN: They're crafty, really crafty.

They've got better sight than you, better smell, better hearing -- way better.

And then on top of that, right now, this time of year, 'cause you've got all this growth, you can't see 'em, it can sit in the weeds and watch you, like nothing.

And you'd never know that it's there -- it could be 30 feet from you, you'd never know it.

When they come in at night I watch them, and they move the same way.

The same way as a border collie.

You watch a border collie go around the field, and you see him lay right down like that, like a lion, and watch, and then he'd get up and he'd move a little further.

And that's what the coyotes do, they're similar.

[Sheep bleating] If I wasn't taking these coyotes out, well, I'd have a third of the animals I've got back there right now, they'd be gone, because they kill the little ones and you can't do nothing about it.

In the last three years, I've been averaging around 50 animals a year.

That's just me.

Now, I got another buddy over here, about a mile and a half from me, and he's killed at least 52 in the last two years.

NARRATOR: Byford has been sheep farming for 40 years.

With over 1,000 animals to protect, he has to use everything in his arsenal to stay one step ahead of coywolves.

[Sheep bleating] BYFORD: The last years have been the worst for coming in the yard.

There's a lot more of them around.

They're smart, and I'll tell you, they ain't as easy to catch as you think.

Hey, that's why they've survived as good as they have -- they know how to use everything to their advantage.

GEHRT: They are one of the least protected animals in the U.S., and probably Canada as well.

There is no particular hunting season in most places, they're hunted year-round, there's no bag limit, as far as how many can be taken.

So, they have this incredible lack of protection, and yet they don't because they thrive under that kind of adversity.

As we continue to remove these animals off the landscape, they continue to replace themselves to the point where not only did we not lower their numbers, but they actually increased their range, and are now found in more parts of North America than they've ever been found before.

NARRATOR: The success of the coywolf in both rural and urban worlds testifies to its tenacity.

It's learned to navigate alien landscapes, find food and make a home in diverse ecosystems, and to recognize to danger in many forms -- an impressive feat achieved by only the most intelligent of animals.

John Pisapio has been tracking coywolves in and around Toronto for over four years now, and one animal in particular has really caught his eye.

PISAPIO: So, here's an old animal that's managed to survive for seven or eight years, and pull off a number of litters and successfully raised pups -- there's a whole lot of experience and wisdom that goes along with surviving that long in an urban environment.

NARRATOR: And she's passed on all that knowledge to her son.

At two years old, this male recently moved away from his mother's territory to establish his own, with his new mate, on adjacent industrial lands near Cherry Beach.

Unlike wolf pups, who stay with their family for up to five years, coywolves strike out on their own after a year or two -- in part because territories may be easier for them to find.

In urban environments coywolf territories are usually about three square miles -- half what they would be in the countryside.

The Cherry Beach male is used to seeing people and more curious about them than afraid.

He's even comfortable exploring nearby residential streets.

Scientists note that all these animals are individuals that demonstrate different personalities and responses to us.

When a jogger passes by, the young male moves in for a closer look... likely associating running with a reward such as food.

It seems with coywolves, the old adage is true -- opposites attract.

The Cherry Beach male is relaxed and easy going, while his mate is cautious and shy.

Unlike wolves that hunt in packs for larger prey, coywolves tend to hunt for smaller prey alone or in mated pairs.

More monogamous than most mammals, including humans, coywolves mate for life.

And this devoted young couple is about to become parents.

Soon, the female will retire to the den to give birth to their pups, and our Cherry Beach male will be the sole provider for the family.

Soon after the Cherry Beach pups were born, Toronto police, on a routine and unrelated call, came close to their den site.

Toronto Police shot a coyote to death tonight.

Officers were in wooded area near Cherry Beach where they encountered a coyote that they say was acting aggressively.

The animal didn't injure an officer, but there had been several recent sightings in the area, and police had asked nearby residents to keep an eye on their children and dogs if they were playing outside.

NARRATOR: Not knowing that the male coywolf had no choice but to stay close to his family, the police shot the new father as he protectively patrolled in front of the den -- ending not only his life, but putting the survival of the entire family in jeopardy.

PISAPIO: Most Eastern coyotes, in an agricultural landscape, it's hard to even get a glimpse of them.

In the urban environment where they're not typically shot at, and where there is so much human activity, by necessity they have to develop some sense of familiarity with, and some sense of ease with all of those people, otherwise they'd never have time to shut their eyes.

NARRATOR: Eastern coyotes, or coywolves, are observational learners, like dogs.

After years of watching us, they pick up on our visual cues and appear the moment our backs are turned.

Vigilant and ever cautious, they've figured out how to move through our world undetected.

They spot anything that is out of place in their territory, a trait they may of inherited from their parent species, the coyote.

[Geese honking] I think coyotes are probably one of the most difficult species to study for a wildlife biologist.

They are a challenge because of that phantom like ability of theirs to disappear in the landscape.

NARRATOR: Despite their elusiveness, Gehrt and his team have managed to trap and put radio collars on over 100 coyotes in and around Chicago.

They constantly monitor the movement of their animals via GPS tracking, but they rarely see them.

GEHRT: We thought there would be very few coyotes living in Chicago; there's many coyotes living in the city -- the fact that we rarely see them gives the impression that there's very few.

But as they move into the most developed parts of the landscape such as downtown Chicago, they don't have any opportunities to move without moving on our sidewalks or down our streets.

But what they will do is shift their activity to being exclusively nocturnal.

NARRATOR: Tonight, Gehrt and one of his grad students are tracking a radio-collared coyote in a Chicago suburb.

With the help of our infrared cameras, they see for the first time in the dark.

They're hoping to finally discover how this female spends a night on the town.

McKENZIE: I think she's traveling the backyards.

GEHRT: We were very close, which actually makes it a little difficult to get a location for them sometimes because their signal's coming from everywhere.

But we're going to loop back around again.

GEHRT: One of the major objectives of this research was to determine where do these animals go, especially in relation to people.

And right away, in fact the very first night we ever put a radio collar on a coyote, we discovered that they were in close proximity to people on a regular basis -- every day, every night -- and yet most people don't know that they're there.

That ability to use that landscape to find little crevices, little hiding places, is the key to their success.

[Beeping] I'm going to try this way and see if I can on the other side of him.

There's a lot of dog walkers, and she's very adept at timing her movements, and she'll come around behind them.

GEHRT: When coyotes begin approaching people, that is a shift in their behavior.

They have this strong desire to avoid people, and what happens is something changes that.

And what we have found over here in Chicago, anyway, is that in almost every case they lose their fear because people are feeding them -- and it's that simple.

McKENZIE: There's tons of people over there.

Let's see what she does.

She's definitely moving, the signal's cutting in and out on us, but... Okay, there she is, right there.

She's right there.

NARRATOR: One of the surprising things that Stan and his team have discovered is that coyotes are the primary predator of Canada geese.

McKENZIE: There's a project that actually set up video cameras on Canada geese nests, and, you know, to monitor what was preying on them.

And sure enough, it was coyotes.

[Geese honking] And they had footage of, you know, the geese trying to fight off the best they can, but, you know, a coyote's going to pursue it no matter what.

GEHRT: Not only do they take the eggs, which is helping to slow the population growth, but they will take the adults if the adults are too slow, or too arrogant to get out of their way.

McKENZIE: She came up from that lower area, we got a visual, she's going along the parking lot.

[Beeping] She definitely looked at us, she looked over.

There she is. She's right there.

Oh, yeah.

That would have been the first time, yeah, the first time I've ever seen an animal carrying an egg like that.

Eating something off the road -- oh, yeah.

GEHRT: They'll either eat the eggs on the spot, or they will cache them so that they're able to eat eggs for up to a month after the nesting season is over.

GEHRT: Studies have shown that when you are able to remove coyotes at least temporarily, one of the negative consequences of that is because they eat so many rodents, the rodents take off.

They become much more abundant once you have no coyotes.

NARRATOR: Gehrt's research points to a startling fact -- coyote numbers are on the rise in major cities across North America.

And he believes that population numbers are higher than anyone suspects.

Gehrt estimates that there are over 2,000 coyotes living in the greater Chicago area alone.

It's likely that a similar number of coywolves could be found in the greater Toronto area.

More and more are showing up in neighborhoods across the city.

Four years ago, this young male first started appearing along the ravine paths in a Toronto neighborhood called The Beach.

Since then he seems to be endlessly fascinated by the activity of the families that live on the street.

And they, in turn, have become quite used to his ever-watchful presence.

[Children playing] WOMAN: He's around almost every day, so we're used to him now.

I've been out in the yard with the dogs, and I just feel something and turn, and many times he's been within, like, two or three feet, right behind me.

So, he's walked across, and you don't hear him -- he's silent as anything.

And I don't like that.

He is just used to humans and used to houses and cars.

BOYS: Car! Car! Car!

MAN: When he first showed up, the city hired a trapper to get him out of the neighborhood.

MAN: He's right there.

MAN: He indicated that the coyote had grabbed a small dog from the street below us, and they had found the dog in the den, and the den was full of dog toys and tennis balls.

They were never able to trap the coyote.

The ravine's his home, and he's part of the 'hood.

WOMAN: He's been a part of my life for two years now.

I think he's very majestic.

Every day he's pacing back and forth at the top of the hill, and then sometimes he's coming down and sleeping in this little bed he's made by my bench.

I feel fine when I'm inside, and I love it, I love seeing how beautiful he is, part of nature -- this is his valley.

NARRATOR: The one thing scientists have learned about coywolves is that food changes everything.

It dictates how they act and where they go.

Pisapio is tracking another of his study subjects in a suburb of Toronto.

PISAPIO: So, this one, to get here, he has to cross a number of very substantial roads, and he's done so successfully for the four months that we've had him on the air so far.

Lost it.

So, he's moving.

He came from the area where he was captured, which was about 15 kilometers from here, and moved through a number of different areas, all urban.

For the last month and a half he has been restricting his movements to an area of about six or seven square kilometers.

NARRATOR: The GPS tracking data show Pisapio that this coywolf is now concentrating his attention on an unusually small part of his territory -- often a telltale sign that someone is feeding him.

PISAPIO: At present, this coyote is about 20 meters behind the boundary of the playground.

So, he's just on the other side of the fence in the woodlot, probably hunkered down for a portion of the day to sleep, but oblivious to all of the people in the school there.

He was here, he's over here now.

[Beeping] So, this is him here, he has been shedding and getting rid of some of his fur there.

This Eastern coyote visits this site with great frequency, and in all likelihood is receiving some handouts.

[Beeping] Stop, stop, there he is, there he is, there he is.

There, he's going -- See him?

Oh, yeah, here he comes again.

Boy, he doesn't want to leave here, does he?

So, we've just tried to get a look at this guy, and he was back and forth like a rocket, which is great.

That's what we want, we want Eastern coyotes in the urban environment to maintain a healthy fear of people.

Those make for good urban coyotes that we can get along with -- there haven't been any conflicts or complaints or expressions of concern whatsoever, despite the fact that this coyote is living in the midst of a very, very dense urban area among thousands of people next to a school and in back yards and all the rest of it.

NARRATOR: There's no doubt that over the last century coywolves have come a long way from their beginnings in Algonquin Park.

And now it seems they may even be ready to take on one of the world's most iconic cities, New York.

As the saying goes, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

MAN: It's so fast, the coyotes are, you know, occupying parks and coming to new parks so quickly, so every year might give us a little more to the story, that next big find.

NARRATOR: In the 1990s, a few coywolves were seen in the outer boroughs of New York City -- in Queens and the Bronx -- but they were thought to be outliers, moving through in search of territory.

Now, two wildlife biologists, Mark Weckel and Chris Nagy, are setting out to prove that this may no longer be the case.

WECKEL: There's a little red light here on the front of these cameras, so that when it detects movement it goes red.

And that's what we want to make sure.

So, the first thing we have to do is just to kind of get an idea, make sure that it picks this up at all angles, and then try to figure out which vegetation we might have to cut back or remove, so we'll probably have to get rid of some of this.

So, it seems to be getting me everywhere, it's getting me here, but this tree... I think it's good.

And when we're ready, just press 'Arm.'

We're good.

BOTH: Nice!

[Laughing] At that one camera, this camera right here, we get more of the pups than we do actually its parent.

She just seems to sit there calmly and let them do what they're going to do before moving off, so it is a little place for them to play and explore and start to grow up.

We're showing people that image in their backyard.

That same backyard that they're afraid, 'Whoa, can I walk my dog here?'

Well, this is what you're worried about.

You know, a very attentive canid.

I think humans are used to canids.

I think the next stage for our research is to get these cameras into those parks that we haven't been yet, number one being Central Park.

It's the iconic New York City park, it's isolated from other areas, so from a scientific standpoint it's an interesting place for us to study.

There is a corridor -- train tracks, vegetated areas, that the coyotes can follow straight from basically the north part of the Bronx straight into upper Manhattan and wind up in Central Park -- and it's happened before.

So, the Eastern coyote that we have here, that might make it to Central Park, its ancestors somewhere along the line bred with wolves in Ontario.

NARRATOR: Scientists like Weckel and Nagy now believe that it's not a question of if, but when, coywolves will make a home for themselves in this most urban of cities.

This original coyote from Mississippi, and the much larger coywolf on the right, are at the leading edge of wildlife moving into our cities.

That a carnivore the size of a coywolf can not only survive but thrive in big cities testifies to its ability to go about its business right under our noses, but just beyond our view.

City life is having a profound affect on the coywolf.

GEHRT: It's entirely possible that after so many decades of intense efforts to remove them, we've created an animal that's just more and more adaptable, or even more intelligent than they were to start with.

PISAPIO: Most species are unable to occupy urban areas.

And the reason Eastern coyotes are is because they are generalists, they're adaptive, they're intelligent, they reproduce their numbers quickly.

That urban environment is driving to some substantial measure additional changes in their behavior.

So, it's really challenging our perception of what the behavior of coyotes is.

PISAPIO: There's a whole new and potentially exciting range of thing that these animals are going to show us that we don't know yet.