• James Parry

Pack of mysterious canines possibly on the hunt for deer in Vaudreuil-Soulanges region


PHOTO PLOSONE.ORG/ MECH, CHRISTENSEN, ASA, CALLAHAN, AND YOUNG

Coywolf hybrids are known to bond together and form packs, a common trait shared between both the coyotes and wolves.

What some local residents believe to have been a pack of coywolves - a hybrid species containing DNA from coyotes, dogs and wolves and said to have originated in Algonquin Park in Ontario - was spotted late at night last week racing across Harwood Blvd. on the Vaudreuil-Soulanges snowmobile trail.

Local residents Roger Ménard and Paul Séguin, both hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, were returning from a day out at a shooting club near Vankleek Hill when, at about 10:30 p.m., five or six animals dashed across the road just yards ahead of them causing them to brake suddenly and pull over to the side.

As Ménard told The Journal this week, “At first, we thought they were deer because they were big and kind of white-light beige in colour but they weren't. Then we thought they might be coyotes. But we know that these are usually solitary animals and travel alone and they were too small. And then we realized that they could be coywolves probably chasing a deer down the trail. It was all over in a couple of minutes but it is a sight that we will never forget.”

However, David Rodrigue, Executive Director of the Ecomuseum Zoo in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, says there could be another explanation entirely. “We have to be careful when describing them as coywolves,” he told The Journal.

“Most likely, they were coyotes or coydogs which are the offspring of a coyote mating with a dog. Almost all present-day coyotes carry coyote, wolf, and dog genes. So the coyotes the gentlemen saw therefore most likely had the three genes, but could have been individuals with more wolf genes in them which would make them a little larger, unlike individual coyotes with a higher proportion of dog genes, which often show fur color variations instead,” Rodrigue said.

“And while they are usually solitary animals, we have seen a greater number of packs travelling together here and in the Greater Montreal area. In fact, I'm starting to think of them like raccoons or red foxes which are moving into urban areas in ever increasing numbers where food is abundant and where it is easier for them to survive.”

While these hybrids have been seen singly throughout the region over the past three years, including on the West Island, this is the first local reported sighting of a pack of the mysterious animals which, according to National Capital Commission experts who study them, are usually wary of humans and avoid people whenever possible just like their coyote cousin.

Said Denis Germain, who lives in St. Lazare and who was a former Quebec Wildlife officer for over 35 years, “I have not seen them myself, but Roger and Paul are credible friends of mine and experienced hunters, so if they say they saw them and thought them to be coywolves that's okay with me. It has been a hard winter for wildlife and deforestation and the lack of deer in more northern areas could very well be causing a seasonal migration of these canine predators.”

Added Germain, “There are lots of deer in our region which are the perfect prey for these animals and it would seem that they are now claiming new territory outside the park. And with the winter and deep snow we are having this year, it's only natural that they - and the deer they are hunting - will be following the snowmobile trails. In the meantime and just to be on the safe side, your readers would be well advised to keep their house pets from roaming too far.”

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