Anatomy of a Coyote attack

The Anatomy of a Coyote Attack

How many wolves are here?
Western Coyotes have hybridized with Northern Red Wolves to produce "Brush Wolves"

A Story of Struggle & Survival

In Canada's eastern provinces

An Eastern Coyote in Shubenacadie Game Park, Nova Scotia.
A Nova Scotia Brush Wolf

In memory of Leah Lorraine MacGregor, nee Evans

About the author 

Harold (Hal) Stanley MacGregor was born in Digby, Nova Scotia, and was raised in the village of Bear River (the "Switzerland" of Nova Scotia).  At 15 he joined the RCAF Reserve, at 16 he joined the Canadian Army Reserve, West Nova Scotia Regiment.  At 17, he graduated from High School, and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.  At 26, he joined the Canadian Coast Guard, and became the Telecom Officer on the heavy Ice-breaker, CCGS Labrador.  At 46, he was the Chief of Electronic Inspection for Aerospace, Marine and Electronic Systems of the Department of Supply and Services of Canada.  At 55, he retired from the Canadian Public Service, to a farm in Eastern Ontario, where he raises Meat Rabbits, Highland Cattle, Goats, Pigeons, Chickens and Siberian Huskies.

Hal has written several articles on Ferrets, Wolves, Coyotes and their hybrids, the History of Scotland, the History of the Clan Gregor, and the History of the Picts.  He is a Director of the Lanark Landowners Association.  He has five children and nine grandchildren, all of whom live in Canada.

Hal with
his alpha male Siberian Husky, Rascal

The Anatomy of a Coyote Attack

A Story of Struggle & Survival In Canada's eastern provinces

This article is not a condemnation of the Brush Wolf, it is in praise of it.

How many wolves are here?
Western Coyotes have hybridized with Northern Red Wolves to produce Brush Wolves"

These events take place in Montague Township, Lanark County, in eastern Ontario, Canada.
Some scenes may be disturbing.

Author's introduction: This story has been used by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) in a court case, where I was the successful defendant.  The main issue was ownership of an animal but another concept introduced by the MNR, was the veracity in relation to the role of Rambut's perceived ownership of the herd.  I have attempted to relate this story from the perspectives of the animals involved, human considerations are purely secondary.


If people could have conversed with Rambut, I am certain he would have emphatically insisted all the sheep were his herd.  He watched over the herd to ensure no females in season would go unsatisfied.  He also kept the younger males in line to ensure only his genes would prevail.  Rambut watched over his herd to maintain his position of dominance, and when they were attacked by predators, he was the first to flee.  Rambut was owned by my daughter, Tanya and her husband, Chris.

However, the decisions of ownership such as what animal is kept for breeding, what animal is sent to market and what animal is put down is decided by the human.  Regarding the issue of veracity, as far as Rambut was concerned, it was his herd.  It was the donkey's job to defend against predators, not Rambut's.  From the donkey's perspective, it was his herd.  From the human owner's standpoint, it was his herd.  A truism is interpreted from the perspective of the sender.

According to the MNR, there is no Coyote or Wolf problem in Ontario, although the Ontario government annually hands out untold hundreds of thousands of dollars to farmers in compensation for "wolf" kills.

The brush wolves of eastern Canada are simply trying to survive.  This story is primarily about their struggle for survival from their perspectives.  Any references to their feelings and to their intentions or of the intentions of other animals is pure conjecture on my part.


The South Montague/Long Branch Pack

The winter of 2006 had been a good one for the White-Tailed deer of Eastern Ontario but a severe one for the Brush Wolves. The lack of snow had been a boon which enabled the deer to travel with ease. The sheep had been brought into the security of locked barns beyond reach. Frequent freezing rain had resulted in an icy ground cover that protected voles from an easy capture. Coupled with a low point in the Varying Hare cycle, the pack were hard pressed to survive.Click on this image to view full size.

 An unseasonably warm Spring provided an impetus to returning flocks of birds, both large and small. The Coyotes bred as they always do in this part of the continent, during the last two weeks of February. If the new brood survives until Autumn, the alpha female will not breed again this year.

 Lean and hungry, the south Montague pack was particularly anxious this Spring to ensure the survival of their family. The alpha male was a large coal-black Timber wolf weighing well over 150 lbs. His parentage was obviously Grey wolf.   A number of Grey Wolves were dropped off in the vicinity by the MNR to thin out the overabundant deer, that  served to introduce  their genes into the local Brush wolf population.  The Alpha female was the progeny of a female Coyote and a male Red Wolf, weighing in at about 80 lbs.

Four of the 2005 litter were still with their parents. They were grey, tinged with the red of their Red Wolf bloodline. Two of their siblings were shot during one of this pack's raids on a sheep farm in late 2005. There were reports of sightings of others, such as a Tan colored one, but it was probably a loner. 

There were also reports of a large lone Grey wolf that was never seen with any others.  He was probably a younger male from this pack who was chased away as he was large enough to present a threat to the black alpha male, no doubt his father. These six Grey/Red wolf/Coyote hybrids were the undisputed masters of their domain as long a they stayed together.  United, they could drive away others of their kind, even the odd Black bear that rambled into their territory.  They knew their territory so well they could travel the length and breadth of it in complete darkness. They knew where the deer herds traveled and also the ages of each deer. They knew where the Snowshoe Hares and the smaller Cotton-Tails hid. They could subsist on voles in the summer but in the winter, they went after larger prey.

They also watched the local domesticated farm animals as they bleated and begat their new ones.  With their large size and coyote instincts, they had no fear of the local dogs.   It was common for hounds to chase a brush wolf pack for over 20 miles, far from the safety of their human handlers.  Dogs sent on their trail often did not return.  Where pure western Coyotes would supplicate to a large dog, these ones would not hesitate to kill it.  Any of them were large and vicious enough to grab a dog by the back of the neck and shake it until its neck broke.  On particularly dark nights, they would often approach a farm and from the cover of darkness, would howl their challenge.   Then they would sit back and enjoy the howling and barking of the local caged or tethered dogs.  Any dog that was foolish enough to venture into their space was killed.  Local dogs  were afraid to venture into the woods when the pack was in their vicinity.  Occasionally, a wandering dog would spot the pack and would immediately run for home.  Sometimes, the pack was successful in surrounding an unsuspecting dog.   In that case, it "disappeared".  Sometimes the ambush was carefully planned.   Instances of disappearing farm dogs have become common in this area.

These "brush" wolves were old hands at attacking sheep, and even cattle to get at their young.  One farmer lost 13 calves in the Spring of 2004 from this very pack.  The alpha male had emasculated a full grown German Shepherd during the last breeding season, for no other reason than to ensure it could not become a challenge to his proprietorship of his domain.   No free-roaming able-bodied male dog would be tolerated on his watch.  The pack had also surrounded and killed the Australian Shepherd guard dog of a nearby sheep farmer.  They had fought a White-tailed buck, in the prime of its life, for hours until, finally victorious, they gorged on its flesh.


This pack was comprised of seasoned killers, and they were intent on starting off the killing season in earnest.  Any of them could hear a twig snap from a half kilometer away, their sense of smell was far better than any dog's so no animal (or man) could approach without their knowledge.

The Donkey

This was the one that drew their attention the most.  He was a medium sized animal but he had his quirks.  He would not tolerate interference in his feeding space from the heifer although she was at least twice as large as him.   When she got on his nerves, he would turn and threaten to kick her whereby she would immediately back off.  Whenever a sudden downpour arrived, the herd would bolt for the outbuilding, and the donkey would stand in the doorway and not let the last few stragglers inside.  This could work in their favour.

There had been a larger donkey here before, and the pack watched fascinated, as he would occasionally run down a newborn lamb,  grab it and toss it in the air usually killing it.   He had disappeared the previous Spring just about the time this newer one arrived.   The resident Red Fox got most of those lamb carcasses, as only she could easily go inside the electric fence and gather them up.   Whenever she was foolish enough to carry a carcass into the woods, they would go after her and she would invariably drop the load and run for safety.

This donkey had his quirks also.   He had his favourite goats and those he disliked.   At times, if he was in a bad mood, he would bite a goat on its back and hold on as the goat screamed in pain and fright, only letting go when he got bored.   Those he picked on tended to be injured and developed a limp or stayed behind the others.   This could be in their favour also. 

The pack knew from experience that the donkey could be expected to be a serious combatant if they attacked inside the fence.   Even when one would venture inside the fence to try to grab a carcass, the Donkey would cut them off and fearlessly face off  with them.  The donkey would be a problem inside the fence but he never attempted to go outside it.   Some goats regularly went a short distance outside the electric fence to get at the taller grass, but they were cautious, and were always on the watch.    If only they could catch some of the goats a distance away from the fenced field.

The Heifer and the Red Fox

She was a hornless three year old part Scottish Hyland.  They remembered her when she lived at a farm to the north deeper inside their territory.  When she was younger and had horns, she would occasionally get loose and wander in the woods alone.  Brother & sister playng King of the castle on Butterball's backShe was a more dangerous adversary then with those long sharp horns but then the humans removed the horns, making her a much more attractive target.  She was now about 800 pounds and didn't appear to be too bright.  The donkey occasionally caught the pack's smell but the heifer didn't seem to know or care.

Unlike the donkey, the heifer didn't appear to have a comfort zone.  She was quite content to let the goats lay close to her, sometimes the kids would jump up on her back and play games. 

As many as three kids would sometimes stand on her back at a time, especially when the resident Red Fox vixen came around searching for scraps.  Her back became a convenient high place to watch the goings and comings of the fox.  They were used to her and were not afraid.   They treated her with the same curiosity they did towards the two resident feral cats.  Even the donkey ignored her after awhile.

With his temperamental nature, the donkey sometimes let it be known he didn't want the heifer's company, so she was occasionally off  by herself  grazing in the pasture.  This aspect of his personality also fascinated the wolves.  She could move fast when she wanted to so they would have to work fast to cut her off from the donkey's protection.  She would be the primary target if they ever managed to get through the fence.

The Electric Fence

It  was a seven strand electric fence.  They had tested it out at night and found it delivered a terrific jolt when one would put its nose to a wire.   It had their respect and they avoided it whenever one patrolled the outside of the fence line but from their concealed positions,  they continued to watch it and the herd's reaction to it. 

They noticed that sometimes a goat would slip under the bottom-most wire forcing it upwards and go through with no adverse effects.   At other times, they noticed one of the adult goats would jump through the two middle strands not touching the ground until free of the fence and in that way was not shocked.

They continued to watch and learn.  It appeared that if they rushed through it, they would not get hurt.  This was definitely working in their favour.

During the Summer and Autumn of 2005, the pack watched as a few goats would slip under the fence and venture  beyond in the taller grass.  They watched and waited for some to venture up into the hardwoods to no avail. 

The goats could smell the wolves hiding under the trees on the ridge.    The prevailing wind was from the west and it carried their scent directly to the goats.  They would have to go in after them.  They would have to jump through the fence as the goats did.

The Decoy Game

On a bright Spring day, at about 6:00 PM, in broad daylight, a thin sand-colored male, weighing about 60 lbs, and with a height of 30",  ventured out of the woods into the outer unfenced  field.  As he playfully jumped on voles, he attracted the attention of the goats.  Working ever closer to the fascinated goats,  he kept an eye on an injured one, too weak to keep up with the others.

As he worked his high jumping game with imaginative voles, he slowly moved ever closer to the fence separating the two parties.   The goats were transfixed by this apparently friendly dog, who was giving them an amazing display of his jumping prowess.  They remembered the little red fox who used to do this for hours and she was never a threat to them.   Even the donkey ignored him after awhile, and walked away. 

There was no way for the goats to know that this Brush wolf had killed the fox and had taken over her den.   He was hungry and he desperately needed fresh meat.   His game was really a ruse to lure a careless goat to slip under the fence so he could grab it.   As he worked the fence line eastwards, the goats followed.   It appeared his ruse would bear fruit. 

Suddenly,  the  watching human fired two quick warning shots above him.   He quickly bound for cover.   He did not return in the daytime for many months.  However, in May of 2009, he was seen grabbing a rabbit.  The owner's son approached him, and he did not retreat until the human was within twenty feet.  He has also been seen in the neighbourhood eating a road kill deer.  This particular Brush wolf is a lone male and is not attached to any pack, although he may start a family if an acceptable unattached female wanders into the area.

Origins, The Greater Picture

These handsome and varied colored predators are a new phenomenon.  They are a result of unions between the northern Red Wolf and the Western Coyote.   In the early 1990s, DNA tests proved there was a distinct population of Red wolves in Algonquin Park.  They were the same species as the Southern Red Wolf, Canis Rufus.

The journey of the Red wolf north into south eastern Ontario:   Their pre-Columbian range was throughout the eastern US from Texas, north to the Canadian border.  The wolf encountered by early Americans east of the Alleghenies was not the Grey wolf, but the Red wolf.   Dna tests on mounted specimens have proved this.  The St. Lawrence River appears to have been the ancient northern borderline between the Greys and the Reds.   In 1980, the Red wolf was declared extinct in the United States by the US Wildlife Service.

Previously unknown by either US or Canadian Wildlife Agencies, there was another isolated healthy population of Red wolves in south-eastern Ontario and south-western Quebec.  The advent of intensive farming in this area in the 1800s, resulted in the replacement of most of the eastern coniferous forests with fields and broken patches of hardwoods.

This changing landscape enticed the Virginia White-Tail deer northwards from the north-east US, who in turn, attracted the last vestiges of the  northern branch of the Red Wolf (Canis Rufus) from the northeast U.S.  There is no record of Red wolves in Ontario before the 1700s, so conventional wisdom dictates they arrived later. Their new refuge and population centre became Ontario’s huge Algonquin Provincial Park, where relatively safe from human predation, they prospered.

 Northern Adaptations

 It doesn't take a professional naturalist to notice that wild animals who relocate to a northern climate, eventually undergo some distinct physical changes.  They tend to get larger, darker and their ears get smaller.

 It all has to do with conserving heat.  A larger body mass, smaller ears to reduce heat loss, and a darker coloration to retain the sun's rays are all advantages in a colder environment.

The American Grey squirrel has become pure black in Canada.  The photo at left illustrates what happens to an American Grey squirrel population when it migrates into Canada.

This fellow is a giant among squirrels.  (The red eye is merely the result of the camera flash.)

The eastern Cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) has migrated northwards and has formed a new sub species which has increased in size, and has become as large as the endemic Varying Hare (Lepus americanus).  Some locals have told me the two varieties have hybridized but that is not possible as they are two distinct species, and are too different to copulate.

Red Wolves Adapt To a Northern Climate

Fact: In their new northern home, these Red wolves grew larger and their ears shrank, some reaching 110 lbs, enabling them to successfully compete with their neighbours, the Greys.   Refer: "Wolf Country" by John T. Theberge.

Red wolves appeared in Algonquin Park before people knew what they were.  They were allotted the name "Canis Lycaon" because they were thought to be an undiscovered species of wolf, and were commonly known as the "Eastern" wolf.   Now, that name has been transferred by some to the Coyote/northern Red Wolf cross which is called "Brush wolf" in eastern Ontario, and has spread throughout southern Quebec and Atlantic Canada..  Others have allocated it to the Grey wolf/Red wolf hybrids that have appeared, especially in northern Algonquin Park (referred to as Canis Lupus Lycaon).

It can be seen that these two photos below of Red wolves (the one on the left being the northern variety and the one on the right being the southern variety) illustrate the physical differences that climate has impacted on them.     In addition, some Canadian Federal and Provincial government sources have mistakenly published photos and documents describing northern Red wolves as Grey wolves.

A northern Red wolf
(winter coat)

Not the same scale as is the northenr Red wolf on the left. A southern Red wolf

 The following chart was modified from a US Fish & Wildlife Service chart, the Northern Red wolf and Brush wolf  columns were added and lb. data was added. 

Species RED WOLF (Southern)

 RED WOLF (Northern)

COYOTE (Western)


Weight in kg:
mean & (extremes) 
23 (17-35) Male
20.0 (16-25) Female
35 (27-45) Male
27.5 (20-32) Female
14 (10-16) Male
13 ( 10-16) Female
27 (20.5-36) Male
23 (18-27)Female
Weight (in lbs):
mean & (extremes) 
50  (38-76) Male
44  (36-54) Female
80 (60-110) Male
60 (45-70) Female
30  (22-35) Male
28  ( 21-35)   Female
60 (45-75) Male
50 (35-60) Female

 Note: It should be noted that whenever two species hybridize, the resultant offspring will vary far more than would the offspring of identical purebred parents.  Only time will tell what the mixture of these two related races of wild canines will ultimately be.  It will no doubt vary according to geographical circumstances.  The above statistics for the Red wolf/Coyote crosses are affected by the hybridization always being between the male Red wolf and the female Coyote. 

The First Wave

Northern Coyote, Canis latrans incolatus 

 Note: Coyote (pronounced as Kai-yot-ee in the U.S.)  Pronounced as Kai-yot in Canada (as in "vote"). An American reader could be excused in wondering how a Canadian writer could be presumptive enough to discuss Coyotes let alone expound a Canadian pronunciation for Coyote.  After all, most Americans no doubt consider the only Coyotes in Canada are those few that lost their way and strayed across the border into a frozen wilderness.  The facts prove the opposite.  It is conservatively estimated there are about 20 million Coyotes in Canada and in all likelihood, the species originated in our Canadian prairies.   With a land mass greater than that of the US, and much of that is bereft of man, it is entirely possible there are more Coyotes in Canada than in the US.

But is the coyote we see in Canada the same as the coyote of the American southwest and Mexico?   Once, on an automobile trip I made from BC to Ontario, I happened upon a road-kill deer in Manitoba during winter, as a Coyote was scavenging it.  He looked all the world like a Grey wolf with his thick winter coat and large size.  The only differences that struck me was his slender build and the fact no wolf in his right mind would  be scavenging near a busy highway.  With his large size, he looked as if he were part wolf.

I could not imagine a similarly coated animal in a hot desert where it never gets as cold as it does in Canada.   In Costa Rica, I once met a German Shepherd dog that was purchased in Ontario but had become almost hairless.  It had acclimatized to a hot climate, and consequently looked much different than if he had stayed in Canada.  In a hot climate, large size & a heavy coat are definite impediments.

Consequently, Coyotes in colder areas of Canada have become larger and have adapted with a heavy winter coat.  A taxidermist friend of mine once showed mePhoto taken at Shubenacadie Wildlife Park in Nova Scotia in June of 2009. the difference between eastern Coyote and western Coyote pelts.  It was amazing.  In a desert or open prairie environment, a large size is not necessary.  Those coyotes depend on mice, rabbits, and other small prey to survive.

In eastern Canada,  Coyotes must learn and adapt to survive on larger prey such as Varying hare, fox, beaver, Canada geese, and White tail deer.   They must become larger, more aggressive, and maintain a pack society.  They started to evolve as soon as they arrived on scene, and that process is continuing today.  Studies have confirmed that smaller individuals breed less than do larger specimens.  Also, it was found that smaller specimens live shorter lives.  These facts validate the theory that Coyotes and Red Wolves in eastern Canada are using natural selection tendencies to increase their body size and their life expectation.. 

The following four paragraphs were lifted from a Nova Scotia web site:  (Additions or clarifications in red are mine).

"The eastern coyote is often 20 per cent larger than his western counterpart, and has a darker coarser coat. Geneticists suggest that this is at least partly a result of cross-breeding with Red wolves in Algonquin Park in eastern Ontario, or possibly it is simply (a necessary) natural selection for larger animals in the east, since they depend on larger prey than do their western cousins.

First seen in 1977, the eastern coyote is the newest carnivore to reside in Nova Scotia.  Although the predatory nature of Coyotes has brought them into direct competition with man, they are very wary of humans.  In Nova Scotia, their main diet is the White tail deer and the Snowshoe hare.  As well, they eat field mice, woodchucks, blueberries, porcupines, birds, garbage and carrion.  Primarily nocturnal in agricultural areas, Coyotes rely in their acute hearing and keen sense of smell.

They also run in larger more organized packs than do their western counterparts.  They come in a range of colours from cream to black.  Their most common coloration is a tawny grey with a black strip running in a swath down the middle of the back from the shoulder to the tail.  In the Maritimes. a reddish tinge is common, reflecting their Red wolf parentage.

Adults weigh from 14 kgs (30 lbs) to more than 23 kgs (50 lbs).  They tend to be smaller in western Nova Scotia than in eastern Nova Scotia (where there are still considerable numbers of Moose, and this is the only land entrance to Nova Scotia)Coyote pairs often mate for life.  The female breeds during her second year.  Five to seven pups are born from late April to early May.  Both parents care for their pups who are born blind and helpless.  Their eyes and ears open after 9 days, and they are weaned between five and eight weeks.  Coyotes are fully grown at one year but often do not reach sexual maturity until their second year."  All pure Coyote and Coyote-hybrid females will have two litters a year if they become stressed.

We in south-eastern Ontario know another reason why local Coyotes or "Brush wolves" as we call them, are larger than milder-climate Coyotes.   It is because they have bred with Red wolves in Algonquin Park and Grey wolves that were dropped off by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).  See "second wave" below.  Studies have proven 13% of Red Wolves in Algonquin Park have Coyote dna.

When the trans-Continental Rail-Roads of the CNR and CPR (began in the 1870s) provided a convenient walking trail for the Western Coyote (Canis Latrans), they drifted in from the west, one at a time, using their legendary wiles and survival instincts.  Where a wolf will avoid human settlements like the plague, the Coyote will use them to its advantage.  Where wolves will move out of an agricultural area, coyotes will move in.  The first confirmed sighting of a western Coyote in Ontario was in 1919.Coyotes are devoted mothers.  There were nine pups in this litter.  Today, there are millions.

Coyote fecundancy could theoretically result in about 1000 offspring by the end of the third year - from one pair of coyotes entering a coyote-free territory, given there is no disease nor fatalities, and half of each litter are female.  Is it no wonder there has been a Brush wolf  population explosion in eastern Canada?  It should be kept in mind, a female coyote will  breed with a large dog if no Coyote male is around, and the offspring are every bit as wild and  vicious as was the mother.  And remember, coyotes invariably seek out the largest and fiercest males. 

They will set up shop on a golf course, in a park,  or anywhere they can use their wits to secure a living.  The larger Red and Grey wolves will kill a Coyote on sight if they can catch them, except during the last two weeks in February, when both wolves and coyotes pursue their traditional seasonal solitary wanderings seeking a mate.

This is definitely not the animal we see in eastern Ontario, and call a Brush wolf.  However, we can see it in areas of southern Ontario further west.  The first wave of  western Coyotes got as far east as eastern Ontario and then petered out as incoming coyotes became hybridized with the Red wolves they encountered in the brief  breeding season for both Canid species.

So, you think you know everything about Coyotes!

  • Coyotes can sprint at 65 kilometres an hour, and trot comfortably at speeds of 20 to 30 kilometres an hour

  • Coyotes can do a 5-metre long horizontal jump, and jump vertically over a 2-metre-high fence

  • Coyote dens often have an entrance, an exit, and a second smaller chamber to help drain water

  • Coyotes are wild ventriloquists: they can throw and scatter their voices with ease

  • A tagged Coyote was monitored as travelling 400 miles (640 km).

  • Coyotes have flexible social behaviour and adjust their hunting methods to the prey size and food sources available. Coyotes often hunt small prey animals singly, whereas they hunt large prey and defend large carcasses in groups

  • Where coyotes are present, one adult coyote per 1 to 2 square miles is an average population density over a large area.

  • The California Department of Fish and Game estimates a population range there of between 250,000 to 750,000 individuals.

  • Coyotes have been known to live a maximum of ten years in the wild and 18 years in captivity.

  • Coyotes can live in a variety of areas since they will eat almost anything, including human trash and household pets. 

  • Coyotes are members of the dog family (canids) which includes wolves, jackals, dogs, and foxes.

  • Hybridization has been reported between coyotes and:  Red wolves, Grey wolves in  Minnesota, and Mexican wolves, and dogs.

  • The Coyote runs with its tail down, unlike the domestic dog (tail up) or wolves (tail straight).

  • The "Northeastern" coyote, or Canadian Eastern Coyote has been DNA confirmed as being a Wolf/Coyote hybrid.

  • Brush wolves in eastern Canada range in colour from bright red to black to tan to grey (and anything in between).

  • There are currently 19 recognized subspecies, with 16 in Canada, Mexico and the United States, and 3 in Central America.  No doubt, there will be more subspecies as semi-isolated populations develop to reflect their new surroundings.  Already, the Brush wolves bordering the Gulf of Saint Lawrence have singularly learned to hunt seals on the winter ice.

The 19 recognized subspecies of Coyote:

Ohio Coyotes:  Courtesy of Ohio DNR (Division of Wildlife) (Comments in red are mine).
Monogamous: male and female mate for life  (but are not entirely faithful).
Peak breeding period: January through March (Primarily the last two weeks in February).
Gestation: approximately 63 days.
Litter size: one to twelve pups.
(Depending on health and availability of food).
Number of litter per year: One. 
(Two, when under stress).
Young are born: April and May, begin leaving den with parents at three weeks. 
Adult weight: 20 to 50 pounds) 
(The larger ones are hybridized with wolves).
Adults height: 18" to 24".
Adult length: 41" to 53". 
Life expectancy: Three to ten years. 
(Longest life expectancy is in urban areas).
Coyotes are not protected by Ohio wildlife laws, and may be killed at any time.

Will the Coyote ever make it to South America and/or Asia?
It is already abundant in Panama.  How long do you think it will take for it to get to Columbia? (Which is the next country to the east).  Since Coyote/Wolf hybrids managed quite easily to cross winter ice on salt water from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, it is quite possible Alaskan Coyotes could traverse across the shorter distance of winter ice of the Bering Straight, and there are lots of Coyotes in Alaska.  Although there is always a current through the Bering straight ensuring an open waterway; in a severe winter, an ice bridge may appear albeit temporarily.   In eastern Siberia as almost everywhere else, the wolf has been under stress from human encroachment.  Wherever the wolf is eradicated, the Coyote and its hybrids will eventually enter and thrive.

The Second Wave  - Red wolf/Coyote hybrid  (Sub-species yet to be named)

An Eastern Coyote in Shubenacadie Game Park, Nova Scotia.
A Canadian Eastern Coyote/wolf hybrid in Nova Scotia

In his two week breeding season, any female Coyote or large domesticated dog in heat is as enticing to a solitary male Wolf as is his own kind. The Inuit knew this thousands of years ago, and have used this trait to strengthen their inbred sled teams with wolf bloodlines on a regular basis.

In the mid 1900s, a new breed of wolf arose in the east; the Red Wolf/Western Coyote hybrid, popularly known locally in eastern Ontario as “Brush Wolves.”  A more cunning, more diverse, and more successful variety of wolf than has ever existed before.  They spread eastwards, then south into the Maritimes, even across the Gulf winter ice to P.E.I. and Newfoundland.  They crossed the winter-frozen surface of the St. Lawrence River where it narrows between Cornwall and Ogdensburg, NY.  In the 1940s, they were reported in New Hampshire, and in the 1950s, they were seen in Massachusetts.  They have been seen as far south as Mobile, Alabama, in several instances reported directly to me.  Compare the photo at right of a Brush wolf on my property in eastern Ontario with the one above. 

The previous eradication of the larger Grey wolves in those areas had allowed these newcomers to replace them as the apex of the food chain.  This was now their domain and they would defend it with their collective lives or perish.  There were persistent reports of Beagles and other hounds being killed by these newcomers.  These hybrids come in all colours.  I have seen some pure black, wolf grey, and others were a bright red (like a fox).   How do we know for certain these “shape-shifters” are part wolf?

Fact:  Specimens have been taken from PEI to Trent University in Peterborough, ON,Most Brush wolf kills at at night. where dna testing conclusively proved they are part wolf.  If the brush wolves of PEI are part wolf, surely the same applies to those in New Brunswick, and those that continued on to NS and Nfld.  These animals have proven to have combined the pack culture of the wolf with the superior cunning of the Coyote.  Hybridization is often treated as a biological mistake in ecology texts.  However, recent research has determined that across the span of evolution,  hybridization has contributed to the diversity of life, and is necessary for species to adapt.  From the viewpoint of the Coyote, her union with a wolf must appear as a match made in heaven.  However, to some farmers, it is a match made in hell.

Inside Algonquin Park, the wolf reigns supreme and the Coyote is an interloper.   Outside the park, it is a different story.  Coyotes thrive when not predated by wolves so outside the park, there are countless Coyote packs that will eagerly accept larger, more fierce males as leaders whether they are a product of a Wolf /Coyote union or pure wolf.   Since the new male's Coyote mother did not pass on her mitochondria dna to her son, he will exhibit wolf characteristics.  So when he is kicked out of his parent pack, he will seek out a comfortable existence outside the park.

Wolf and Coyote at a kill site.How does the introduction of Coyote mitochondria dna in a wolf pack affect its characteristics?

Fact:  Mitochondria dna (those handed down from mother to daughter) tests conducted by Robert Wayne's California Laboratory have conclusively proved that 13 percent of Algonquin Park's female Red Wolves have Coyote dna.  This suggests that northern Red wolves have been infiltrated by Coyotes (from outside the park), and their female offspring (exclusively) contain Coyote dna and therefore Coyote characteristics.

It is well known among naturalists that the alpha female of a wolf pack is the one that determines when the youngsters (especially female) are driven out of the pack, where the next target will be, and when she will whelp.   Any Coyote will whelp a second time in one year when under stress, producing in a good year about 19 pups, compared to about four to six for a wolf - and only Coyotes will whelp as a yearling, and the Alpha female will allow another female to lactate within the pack, not so with wolves.   The role of the alpha male is to protect the pack's territory,  drive away his potential rivals, lead the pack in a fight and a kill, and pass on his superior survival skills. Simply put, the pack combines her brain and his brawn.  It all adds up to an explosive population of Brush wolves when they enter a new territory. 

This is a devastating combination!  Picture a pack of brush wolves, with a pure Wolf alpha male and a Wolf/Coyote alpha female.  (It has never been documented the other way around.)  This means the alpha female will behave as a coyote and the alpha male will behave as a wolf.    Whereas Coyotes will not kill beavers (as they are too difficult for her smaller size), with her larger offspring, they are fair game, so are White tail deer and even domestic cattle.  The predation of the first two is of little interest  as their populations are out of control in this area but the predation on livestock is a distinct problem to farmers.

To put this ecological picture into perspective, one has to understand that Virginia White Tail Deer, Florida Cottontail Rabbits, American Grey Squirrels, and a host of other exotic southern creatures do not normally belong in this area of North America.  They are only here because European settlers cleared much of the Boreal forests, and replaced them with agricultural farmland, making it enticing to these colonizers.  It was only natural that their predators would follow them.  The western coyotes who followed the railway tracks east discovered an area that had been changed to become much like the prairies.  They and their hybrid descendents would never have survived in the eastern "pre-colonial" North America.  What we European colonizers have sowed, we shall reap.  In reality, the Brush wolf is a White man's invention.

To counter devastating raids by Brush Wolves, farmers have taken to using Donkeys, Llamas, even special breeds of guard dogs such as Pyrenees and Komondors who bond with the livestock and guard them 24 hours a day.  These Brush Wolves have met these new obstacles with their own devices; subterfuge, cunning, and their innate ability to plan, prepare, and strike with a ruthless military-like precision.

To illustrate the lack of knowledge in the scientific community of the advance of the western Coyote/Brush wolf across North America, the map at left was lifted off a research web site and dated as 1986.  To correct this map, the originators would have to include Nova Scotia, which saw its first Coyote in 1976, (two were shot in 1977), and Newfoundland which saw its first landed Coyote in 1985.  (The first Coyote was seen in New Brunswick in 1958).   How do I know this?  I lived in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia during those periods when Coyote attacks against sheep began.  Soon, they were seen in all 18 counties of N.S.  By 1983, they had been reported in Prince Edward Island.  There is also a vibrant population of Coyotes in Panama which is not shown on this map.  It makes one wonder just where some of these government departments are getting their information. 

Fact:  The typical male western Coyote is described as weighing about 30 lbs.   In Nova Scotia, adults average 50 to 60lbs, and is presently home to approximately  8,000 Coyotes and larger Brush Wolves.   PEI has over 1,000 Brush Wolves.   I talked to farmers in the Niagara region of Ontario, and they told me dna tests have proved their Coyotes also have wolf in them, so they are spreading westwards as well as to the east.

Contrary to scientific theory, in eastern Ontario, experience has proven some large domestic dogs will mate with brush wolves, and run with the  pack.  One case saw a 100 lb. male Black Labrador take off with a brush wolf and stayed with her for three years until he was shot.  Several of their offspring were pure black.  In another case, a male Walker Hound took up with a pack, and many of the later pups had obvious hound in them.

Due to the female Coyote's preference for larger males,  the second wave" Brush wolf" (Coyote/Red Wolf hybrid) has overwhelmed the smaller pure western Coyote in southern Ontario.  This is a pattern that will repeat itself in all areas of eastern North America where pure Coyotes have established.  This 'super' Coyote will dominate wherever they encounter the smaller purebred  form.  The only areas where the pure western Coyote may hold on are large urban areas that offer limited protection from its larger cousins, and that scenario is extremely doubtful in the long term.  What will happen in western North America is yet to be determined.  Nature will take its course.

Around here, rural people are saying the Brush wolves are out of control.  However, I personally am not upset with them.  They normally maintain their distance, and the ones near my farm are not a nuisance.  But then, they prefer sheep (and I don't have any) to any other domestic herd animal, and sheep are inherently stupid.  They will slip through the protective fence to get at the grass on the other side.. where the donkey cannot go.   Goats are smarter than sheep, and will not venture outside the protected area when Coyotes are around.  Coyotes and Brush wolves prefer carrion, and will not bother live animals when carrion is abundant.

However, in their wisdom, the Ontario government has legislated against farmers providing carrion or waste meat to Coyotes (unlike some other jurisdictions).  My donkey is very effective at keeping them away from the goats.  However I have often seen their tracks inside the fenced area with no damage done yet.  My neighbour advised me that  he saw my donkey face off with a wolf  when it tried to enter the outbuilding.  Upon investigation, I found two new baby goat carcasses therein.  No problem there.

In 2007, the Municipality of Montague, with a population of about 3,000, paid out $3,334.00 in livestock claims.   In 2009, by August 31st, the amount was $8,575.00.  These payments are routinely reimbursed from the provincial government.  However, the time spent by the Municipal livestock evaluator is paid by the Municipality.  There used to be a $50.00 - $75.00 bounty on Brush wolves here but today there is no bounty so most people don't bother trapping them.  Domestic dogs are more of a problem with livestock in some areas than are Brush wolves, and most people will admit that some livestock claims are actually the result of dog predation.  There is no restriction on killing Brush wolves throughout the year, which I find reprehensible.

 Coyotes on Ice 

Even this government map is inaccurate.  Coyotes have made it to the shore sof Hudson Bay.In 1985, the second wave of Coyote/Red Wolf hybrids crossed the ice on the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Newfoundland.  How did they get there?  In the late 1970s, they smelled the blood of Seals birthing, and learned to hunt seals on the ice of the Gulf.  It was merely a matter of time before some of them would notice a land to the east that promise new opportunities. Nova Scotia's northern tip of Cape Breton Island is the most logical jumping off point for those Brush wolves as it is the closest land mass to Newfoundland with a Brush wolf population.

Predictably, Newfoundlanders now assume that 60% of the Caribou and Moose calves are culled by Coyotes every Spring.   Actual studies have indicated they are responsible for 13% of this predation. The resident Black bears are responsible for over 30%.  There are still bears and bobcats on the island who also predate the herbivores.  The entire province has been colonized by this new wolf, and in its semi-isolation, this population may become the largest Coyote hybrids in the world. 

In the west, 30 lb. coyotes have developed a diet of mostly mice, grass, and if they are lucky - the odd bit of carrion.   However, in the east, they have grown larger, packed-up, and consequently are primarily meat eaters, specifically, Deer, Caribou, Moose, Beaver, Hoary marmots, household cats,  and domestic cattle/sheep.  The most successful packs will dominate and expand, replacing those less efficient.  So size does matter in this context.

One disadvantage that  pure Coyotes in the east have to contend with is that when confronted by their larger hybrid cousins, they either flee or perish.   Their only recourse in many areas is to take to the cities, and hope the big ones will stay away.  

 Having doubled in size since hybridizing with Red Wolves, these Coyotes are the new "super" Coyote.  With the cunning of their maternal Coyote mothers and nearly the size of their paternal Red Wolf fathers, they have carved out a niche previously held by the Grey Wolves who used to live in the Atlantic provinces.

 Harp seals on the ice in late MarchThe first Brush wolf sighting on the island of  Newfoundland occurred on March 29, 1985 when three animals, reported as wolves, were seen coming ashore from pack ice off Marches Point on the Port au Port Peninsula on the province's west coast.   Additional sightings on pack ice near Newfoundland were made in 1989 and 2000.  Sightings and trap records from 1986 indicate that Brush wolves are now widely dispersed across the island.

Local wildlife officials are reportedly perplexed whether the considerable increase in "Coyote" size is due to their earlier  hybridizing with Red wolves or a natural outcome of their environment, and the fact their food supply in Newfoundland consists largely of ungulates such as Moose, Caribou and White tail deer and  (seasonally) Seal.  Perhaps they should take the P.E.I.  approach and simply send a few pelts to Trent University for dna inspection. 

The Newfoundland Department of Environment and Conservation estimates the Brush wolf population on the island to be about  10,000.   With  Nova Scotia's population estimated at 8,000, this appears to be a rather conservative figure.   Nowhere has persecution caused the elimination of coyotes.   So it looks like the new super coyote is there to stay.  Even if by some lucky stroke, Coyotes were wiped out in insular Newfoundland, migrants would soon replenish their numbers from Nova Scotia, as they are regularly reported as crossing on the sea ice in the winter.

Some "experts" have figured that about 75% of each yearly population of Coyotes would have to be eliminated to have an effect.   However, it has been proven that when a particular Coyote population is put under such a stress, the females will merely produce two litters a year to make up the loss, and they come bouncing back to the previous number.   The only thing that will decrease a Coyote population is the loss of their food supply or the introduction of a predator species such as pure Grey Wolves or Cougars, and that is not likely.

Already, Newfoundland Coyotes have displayed some unique characteristics compared to their counterparts in other parts of eastern Canada:

  • They prefer open country as opposed to boreal forests.

  • They have not drastically reduced the resident number of Red foxes as predicted. 

  • They have not "packed-up" as in other Atlantic provinces but prefer a solitary life style. 

  • They have reached all parts of the province, even mainland Labrador, but have not peaked yet. 

One can be certain, that Coyotes in the east will be studied every which way but crooked to determine if there is some way to eradicate or at least control them.    Good Luck!!! 

In this new home, they will be almost entirely isolated from their mainland cousins.  Over time, they will become distinct and will form a new subspecies.  What will they look like?  It is very probable they will increase in size, their ears will shrink, their bodies will get larger, and they will get a thicker coat, perhaps with white markings especially during the winter moths.  The deer and the Caribou will be relatively easy prey but to take advantage of the overabundance of Moose, they will have to pack up.  Then there will be a competition to get larger, and be able to overcome the Moose.  Then, they will effectively have replaced the Nfld. wolf in every sense.

Unlike their mainland counterparts, they will learn how to take advantage of the unique and abundant Moose, Caribou, Arctic Hare and  Ptarmigan, as well as the White tail deer, Varying Hare, Red foxes, and domestic goodies to be found in Newfoundland, without fear of Grey wolves or Cougars.  They have already learned how to hunt seals on the winter ice!  What more tricks will they come up with?  Their bodies may eventually react to the long Newfy winters by changing not only the density of their fur with the seasons, as have all northern animals, and they may change their coat colour with the seasons as well as does the Nfld. Arctic fox, Arctic Hare and Ptarmigan.

In the distant future, they may even recolonize Nova Scotia, and replace the smaller Brush Wolves there.  Then, the migration of the Brush wolf will be westward, not eastward.  The ironic thing about all this remarkable expansion of the Coyote and his offspring into vast eastern domains albeit with the assistance of wolves they met along the way - is that they owe it all to their greatest enemy - man.  One thing is for certain, the recent explosion of scientific study, this once lonely animal has engendered is only the beginning.  We will be hearing more from him and his fellow travelers.

One thing we humans have learned from this amazing shape shifter is -
Don't ever underestimate him!

Photo of a Newfoundland Brush wolf 

What is a Brush Wolf?
A brush wolf is a Wolf/Coyote cross (whether Red or Grey wolf).  They have always been a cross between a male Wolf and a female Coyote.

What is a Coydog?
 A cross between a male Coyote and a female Dog.

What is a Dogote?
A cross between a male Dog and a female Coyote.

The Third Wave (Grey wolf/Brush Wolf)


While the second wave of  "Brush wolves" (hybrid Coyote/Red Wolf) swept across south-eastern Canada, from Algonquin Park to the Maritimes and Newfoundland),  a larger more ferocious brush wolf  emerged in southeastern Ontario, with help from the Ontario MNR, especially in Lanark and Leeds-Grenville counties.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) in its wisdom, started releasing Grey wolves from northern Ontario into southeastern Ontario in the 1990s - to thin out the overabundant White Tail deer population here.  First in the Marlboro Forest, then later, three at a time in the Limerick forest,  further west along Leeds & Grenville County Road 15, and elsewhere.  Witnesses saw the releases, although the MNR never admitted to them.

Fact: In fairness, all Provincial departments of Natural Resources have agreed that a healthy deer population requires a correspondingly healthy predator population.  i.e.  In Lanark County, more deer are killed by vehicle collisions than by hunting.  But what would keep these new "super Coyotes" from turning on domestic livestock?  Recently, the Ontario MNR have admitted (privately) to releasing Cougars in Eastern Ontario.

Soon, huge Blacks and Greys were reported seen running with local Brush wolves.  (Here is where the cunning of the female coyote came into play;  If a better individual made his presence known, why fight it.  Accept him and make him a part of your gene pool.  In that way, the pack gets stronger and more effective).  The general population of Brush wolves became noticeably larger, and became a greater problem to local farmers.   600 lb cattle were routinely brought down.  Not only hounds but larger dogs were routinely reported killed by wolves.  As wolf attacks became more numerous and more devastating, local farmers began taking more drastic measures to protect their stock.  These measures varied from acquiring several donkeys, bringing in the sheep at night, laying out multi-strand, higher voltage  electric fences, erecting 7' game fencing, housing packs of guard dogs, even feeding the wolves.  Some met with varying degrees of success, others less so.  

Fact:  A pack of  "Coyotes" near Perth  (20 miles away) was dna tested by the Ontario MNR in 2004.  It was determined the Alpha male was a pure Grey wolf, the mother was a Coyote.  It has never been found to have occurred the other way around, so it appears that female Coyotes and Coyote/Wolf hybrids (Brush wolves) favour larger sized males (pure wolves).  It is my contention the Perth pack was not a unique situation.  It has happened every time the MNR has "dropped off" a male Grey wolf in this area.  The intruding male wolf would merely have to kill or drive off the incumbent alpha Brush wolf and the pack was his.  The consequence of this program will affect the farmers in all of eastern North America for many years to come.  I have personally  witnessed a solitary male wolf playfully chase a herd of sheep on my property.  He was much larger than a full-grown male Malemute (which typically weigh in at 150 lbs). 

Fact:  Private research (Nowak, 1979) indicates Grey wolves and Brush wolves have hybridized in Algonquin Park, where the  subspecies C. lupus lycaon now occurs.   Similar research has proven these wolf/coyote crosses have resulted in a more aggressive animal, more prone to attack cattle and sheep herds than either of their parent stock.   Grey wolves have weighed in at 176 lbs.

The above facts make perfect sense when one considers what happens when the inevitable meeting of a released Grey wolf with a Brush wolf pack.  The alpha male Brush wolf immediately confronts the interloper and a fight ensues.  The Grey wolf kills the alpha male, and takes over leadership of the pack, no doubt to the utter delight of the alpha female.

Which leads me to answer another question - Will a domesticated Siberian Husky, raised in an enclosure with no human handling, revert to a wolf -like life style?  The answer is definitely YES!  I allowed a litter of purebred Siberian Huskies to be raised by their mother in a controlled environment inside a one acre enclosure.  They were born in a den with  no human contact.  The older dogs, who had been raised with human contact did not go wild but the pups were completely unmanageable, and attacked other dogs who came close to the fence.  I would never recommend that procedure to anyone.  

Fact:  A domestic pack of Siberian Huskies was allowed to go wild in the Limerick Forest of Leeds Grenville county in the 1980s.  Their progeny has entered the local Brush wolf gene pool, and they have become indistinguishable from the greater Brush wolf population.

Up until the late 1990s, it was legal to breed dogs with wolves in Ontario.   The most attractive hybrid was the Siberian Husky/Grey wolf cross.  Due to the great demand, I indulged in it myself until the practice was outlawed.   There have been reports of recent wolf-husky hybrids, some of which were turned loose after they became an illegal commodity.  I have also been called to pick up individuals that were found far from home after chasing a deer.

In the Spring of 2005, I was called to look at a "dropped off" dog nearby.  It was definitely part Siberian Husky.  The other part proved to be Timber or "Grey" wolf, as I eventually located the original owner, who lived about thirty miles away.  He has the coat of a Siberian Husky and the body of a wolf.   I took him to a vet and got his vaccinations up to date and found he was neutered.  If he was dropped off  by a government agency to introduce a "non fertile" alpha male into a Brush wolf pack,  it would not have worked, as Coyote alpha females are not loyal to their mates during the short breeding season.  They will wander off looking for variety.  I kept him for a time and called him "Nikko".

Nikko, on the right, was at first quite uninterested in my goats, but after he  matured, he lunged at them any time he saw one.  There was a fire inside him that was missing in my regular Huskies.  Nikko, the product of a Timber wolf and a Siberian Husky.He  was a perfect gentleman in the car and on a leash, and would sit on command but I would never trust him to be let loose.  Note his wolf-like long nose and legs - and thin body (no matter how much he eats).  When he matures, he should fill out with more hair and body fat.  He has brown eyes.

Once, when a neighbour's dog attacked him, Nikko quickly jumped on the other dog and began to furiously shake its body, trying to break its neck.  Nikko didn't really bother biting the dog, he was simply out to kill it quickly.  This is a typical Wolf action.  A friend and I managed to pull the two dogs apart (with leashes) before any serious damage was done.  The terrified and bleeding dog ran for home, no doubt the wiser.  Nikko didn't have a mark on him.

Fact:   This incident proved the fallacy of the Disneyesque notion that a German Shepherd male can take over a wolf pack.  Not in the real world - for sure!

Where wolves (both C. Lupus & C. Rufus) are too timid to occupy an agricultural area, and C. Latrans is too ineffectual with its small size and lone lifestyle, their hybrids successfully combine the size and pack society of  wolves with the craftiness and boldness of the Coyote, enabling them to bring down animals normally out of the reach of either parent.  You can be sure, if one strategy does not work, the Brush wolf will try another - until it hits the jackpot.

Notwithstanding the Mexican adage about things staying in Mexico, things that happen in Lanark County spread outwards.  As they say in the movies "You aint seen nothing yet".   If livestock farmers in southern Quebec and the Maritimes think they have managed to control the "Coyote" problem,  wait until they experience the third wave.   A larger, more ferocious "Brush wolf " is coming your way soon.   The 40 - 70 lb animal you are used to will soon be well over 100 lbs.  Simply put, what we have now is a coyote the size of a Grey  wolf - or to put it another way, a Grey wolf with the cunning of a coyote

It may take ten, twenty years, but the larger version will eventually spread throughout the east bringing shock and awe in their wake.  It is only natural that the established "Canis Lycaon" brush wolves will gradually be overshadowed and bred out by their larger cousins.  Female Brush wolves will seek out the largest male they can find.  Natural selection,  survival of the fittest, call it whatever you may, a hybrid wolf/coyote with the size and strength of a wolf combined with the cunning and adaptability of a coyote is coming to a vicinity near you. 

Fact:   In southeastern Ontario, the third wave has arrived.

Their success may ultimately lead them to veer westwards and repopulate the US mid-west and areas in western Canada where the lonely coyote now reigns supreme.  The success of the eastern Coyote in hybridizing with wolves may come back to haunt his ancestors in their ancestral western homeland.  Perhaps the future of the pure-blooded Coyote is in jeopardy.  The only condition that would halt their advance is the absence or extreme scarcity of prey animals.

Back in Montague

The Preparation

Back in Montague, our group of six Second Wave Brush Wolves have been watching a particularly fat heifer and a herd of goats contained only by a rather flimsy fence with seven strands of electric wire.

Watching intensely, they noticed some goats would casually dip under the bottom wire, lift it, shorting out the live wires, and would graze contentedly in the longer grass of the outer fields, unprotected by donkeys, nor by anything else. 

The alpha male and female remembered the day two years previous here, when he watched from cover as she chased 12 horned Dorsets across the north field, and they had formed a Musk ox-like circle facing outwards.  She was merely playing with them that day, but a few weeks later, the pack had managed to ambush the sheep outside the fence, drove them into the brush, and killed four of them.  That was a good Spring for the pack.

This pasture was now bereft of sheep, and now contained goats, an easier prey, with fewer defence instincts.  It was alongside the pack’s regular route, which they traversed at will. From the shadows of nearby cover, they watched the goats - and waited for their opportunity. Pastured with the goats was a medium size male donkey and an 800 lb Highland heifer, who together, watched over the herd.  There was also Rambut, the lone aged Ram. 

The seven resident Siberian Huskies were penned up, so they could not affect a raid. They could  only make noises. There was a nearby large Husky/Collie, “Roger”, who was loose but he would not interfere, only bark, or he would be easily dispatched in the melee.  No problem there.

As humans and their fire-sticks were the major concern, they would have to wait until no human was present.  The pack noticed some goats would routinely jump through the fence to get at tender saplings in the brush, their thick winter coats protecting them from the electric contact.  This was their cue.

Rambut was a Horned Dorset Ram, who was approaching the end of his life. In his prime, he would not hesitate to charge any solitary nearby wolf or dog but now he was frail, and near death.  As Rambut grew weaker, the alpha male decided this was the time to settle a score. 

Occasionally, one pack member was designated to walk along the outside of the fence - to test the reaction of the herd.  The only ones who appeared to notice were the Donkey and the Ram. They intently watched the solitary wolf until it disappeared in the woods.  Perhaps the fat heifer would be no problem. 

The more adventurous goats used to slip under the fence and go to the nearby hardwoods on the ridge to chew on the succulent maple twigs but once they noticed the lurking wolves, they stopped going there. 

For an entire Summer, Autumn, and Winter, the goats refrained from venturing out of the protected pasture.  The herd spent their nights in the safety of the outbuilding as the donkey guarded the open entrance.  It was impossible to attack at night.

During  the winter of 2005/2006, some of the herd would occasionally  spend the night laying on the remaining dry hay that the human had placed there for feed in the morning.  It was more comfortable there with fresh air and a nice breeze.   The wolves noticed, and they attacked one night in early February. 

The donkey saved the herd from disaster and fought ferociously.  It was over in a few minutes when the black male withdrew in frustration.

  After that incident, the herd spent every night in the outbuilding with the donkey guarding the open doorway.   Another  night time attack was out of the question.  The pack was becoming desperate.



The Day Attack in Mid April

Hunger was having its effect, and the survival of the unborn pups was in jeopardy The business end of a brush wolf. as the Alpha female, as well as the entire pack, were becoming weaker with the lingering starvation of a sparse winter.  They desperately needed the protein of a large kill.  On a warm day in mid-April, the decision was made to attack.  The heifer would be the primary target, Rambut was the second.

It was a quiet day as the quarry just south of the hardwoods was vacant.  They would wait and find out if conditions were right for an attack.  The pack approached the farmland, they scattered, circling the property to take up their positions.  It was mid-morning before every member was in position.  Two  juveniles  stayed hidden in the thick Cedars of the southern fringe by the pond.

The Alpha female and a juvenile went to the ridge to the west, and watched.. The Alpha male and another juvenile sprinted across the north end of the pasture and lunged into the brush, adjacent to the outbuilding where the herd had spent the night.

Unknowingly, the black was spotted as it lunged for the brush from the field. The time was 10:15 AM.   The spotter checked two nearby houses to see if the black animal was a neighbour’s dog, but they were all accounted for. It was a Brush Wolf! Were there more in the vicinity? What were they up to?

The smell of death was in the air as the old Ram laid on his side, too weak to join in the daily feeding.    He could not find the strength to leave the outbuilding. This would be his last day on earth.  The human finally departed the scene at 12:00 noon, leaving the herd satiated with grain - and alone. For three more hours, the wolves stayed out of sight, unseen, patiently watching every move of the herd.

At 3:00 PM, with everything quiet, the black Alpha male silently began running towards the herd from the north, with his tail up  flanked by another.  Ever watchful, the other four took his lead and immediately followed suit, running towards the grazing herd. 

They came from three directions, heading for the heifer.   They easily jumped through the electric fence without as much as a jolt.  As two passed by the pen of the largest Husky, he ran into his den with his tail between his legs. The other six Huskies did likewise.  They snarled loudly as they reached the herd.  Next door, Roger heard the snarling and crept into his doghouse. The dogs were terrified of these huge intruders.  Answering their calls from a safe distance was one thing but up close they were simply too fearsome.  The watching human felt the hairs on his neck tinge.  A primordial fear arose within him.  He began to sweat and started to back off.

Pandemonium broke loose as the wolves scattered the goats.   The donkey reacted quickly and became berserk. Braying loudly, he kicked, bit and tossed wolves in every direction. One wolf lunged for a small kid, its mother attempted to gore the attacker with her tiny 3 inch horns and was grabbed by the neck for her bother.  The donkey came to her rescue.  At first, the heifer did her best to protect the goats.  Then she realized she was the target.  She bellowed loudly and lunged at the wolves, all of her 800 lbs became a fighting machine.

At first, two wolves turned on the heifer.  She bellowed loudly, kicking all the while, as she ran for the safety of the outbuilding.  Two more wolves quit the fray with the donkey and chased after the heifer.  All four wolves tried to bring her down by striking at her legs and sides. The goats had expeditiously ran to the south end of the pasture, safe for the moment.  The donkey ran after the heifer to help beat off the four wolves who were tormenting her.

Together, they scattered them.  The donkey went after the black male and kicked him in the air, momentarily rendering him unconscious.  The others became bewildered and cut off the attack.  Leaderless, they became unnerved.   The black regained consciousness and limped toward the northern fence.  The pack broke off the attack and retreated as one towards the ridge and the hardwoods to the west.  It was over in an instant.  the donkey threw himself after the retreating wolves, and hit the electric fence sideways in a fit of anger.  As 3,000  volts pulsated through his body, he jumped off all four feet and brayed as loud as he could in uncontrolled rage.

Ten minutes later, they had regrouped and returned.    This time, two broke off and went into the outbuilding to maul Rambut.  The other four had charged the waiting donkey, who was waiting with an attitude.  He met them head on, kicking and biting.  This time, the fray only lasted a few minutes.  The pack disappeared over the western ridge, and headed northwards for home.

The pack rendezvoused shortly after, where they licked each other’s faces in obvious enjoyment.  The pack was intact!  They had tasted blood, and had fought the good fight.   All were accounted for.  Except for some bruises, no one was seriously hurt.  It was a day to remember - and learn.  Unless precautions were taken, there would be a next time. 

An Evaluation

Miraculously, no goat was serious hurt.  When I went into the outbuilding to see about Rambut, there were two terrified little goat kids cringing in a corner.  The wolves had ignored them.  The outcome of this attack might have been far different if, by pure chance, a friend of the owner, had not happened to arrive just as the attack began. Therefore, an accurate account of the entire incident is available. People were used to wolves attacking at night but now the intuitive Brush wolves have taken to operating in the middle of the day, an indication of their resourcefulness and their ability to adjust.

The only fatality was Rambut, the old warrior who had watched over his herd of sheep, then goats, for well over ten years. The only other effects were a roughed up heifer, three very frightened kids, and two canine tooth marks on one small but courageous white doe.  I believe the donkey and “Butterball” became a little closer that day.   Nowadays, I often look out and see the two of them grazing close together while keeping a watch on the goats.  Butterball’s wounds will heal.  I often see her lying on a patch of hay with most of the goats close by. The smaller ones enjoy crawling up on her. She doesn’t appear to mind a bit. 

However, one has to grudgingly admire these “Brush” wolves, whose only objective is to secure a living off the lesser inhabitants of their domain. They should not be underestimated.   Meanwhile, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) claim there is no Coyote problem in Ontario.


Although Brush Wolves had previously been known to have preferred to attack during the cover of darkness, and almost never were seen to attack domestic animals in the daytime, they are now confident enough to attack anytime of the day.

Domestic dogs are practically useless in discouraging the new "Brush Wolf" attacks as they are so large now that the dogs are intimidated and will not interfere.

The best animal to have as an effective defence against these new wolves is a good donkey.  The more the better.

If one is to pasture cattle in an unprotected pasture, they should be horned.  One cow by itself is practically defenceless against wolves.  A number of cows (or sheep) will form a protective circle, facing outwards when threatened by wolves.

Wolves prefer to go after cattle rather than goats.

Butterball is now a healthy 5 years old, and a devoted mum of a bouncing young heifer who is utterly beautiful.   She was a dynamo during the fracas.  If her horns had not been burned off by her previous owner, she would have inflicted terrible damage on some wolves.  Her wounds can be seen in this photo taken the day after the attack, where chunks of hair were bitten off.   Both the donkey and Butterball are heroes for their successful stand against the pack of wolves.   

Butterball the day after the attack

A 2006 Survey of Local Farmers Who Have Had Experiences With Brush Wolves

Eight farmers and one other resident in Montague were questioned as to their experiences with local Brush Wolves:

 Farmer A: Sheep farmer. Loses 3 or 4  sheep/lambs every year.  A "wolf" was shot on the back door step. There are no guard dogs,  lamas nor donkeys here.  The last Australian Sheep Guard Dog was cornered and killed last year by a "Wolf" pack.  About 10 "Wolves" have been shot by this farmer over 10 years. He brings all sheep in at night.  Some "wolves" have entered the barn to kill sheep.  There are no guard dogs left.

Farmer B:  Beef farmer.  13 calves were killed in the Spring of 2004.  He has a herd of Angus.  7 "wolves" shot over 10 years.  There are no guard dogs left, Lamas nor Donkeys here.  No animals were lost in 2005.

 Farmer C:  Beef farmer.   He has 7 donkeys and a herd of Angus.  Has only lost calves when they slip under the outer fence where the donkeys can not follow, although they howl nearby almost every night.  Animals are never in a barn.

Farmer D:  Beef farmerHe has a large herd of Angus.  He feeds "wolves" in adjacent brush regularly.  He has never lost an animal.  He has one border Collie.

Farmer E: Beef & sheep farmer.  He lost four adult sheep to "wolves" four years ago, and 3 calves two years ago.  Has four boarder Collies.  Brings all sheep in at night.  

Farmer F:  A sheep farmer.  He lost four adult sheep to "wolves" in 2004 that regularly went outside of an electric fence early in the morning.  Has 7 Siberian Huskies in pens that howl to answer "wolves", effectively keeps wolves away from barnyard area.  He also has one donkey pastured with goats.  Most cows are in a 7' high game-fenced in area.  Goats are protected by a 7-strand electric fence.

Farmer G:  Mixed farmer. (Horses, cattle, goats)  "Wolves are getting worse".  Their loud howling and presence has frightened resident horses so much they panic and run.   He has four guard dogs that have so far kept wolves from barn area.  He also had one Llama but in 2007, it was found in the field torn apart, He brings in all his cows, horses, and goats at night. 

Farmer H: Turkey farmer.  He was "wiped out" in 2005.  He had two donkeys who were overwhelmed by the relentless attacks of a wolf pack.

Resident I:  His full grown male German Shepherd was attacked and emasculated by a black "Wolf" in February of 2004, that habitually walked through his yard on a weekly basis (and still does).  (The vet bill was $1,000.00.)

Please note: All these above reports were the results of the predation of one Brush wolf pack estimated to presently comprise six or seven animals.  The entire area covered here is about two miles in radius.

Everyone of those interviewed scoffed at the idea that there is no "Coyote" problem in Montague


Below is a photo of two adult sheep owned by Farmer "A", killed by what the MNR refers to as a non-problem.

Fact:  The typical wolf killing pattern is for one wolf to grab the prey by the rear and hold it while its partner tears out the throat.
 In the Autumn, the parents will teach the new crop of youngsters how this is done.

Aftermath: The author has increased his herd of Highland Cattle to fourteen, including one large bull and six mature cows.  The herd of goats are now restricted to an enclosure with seven foot high game fencing.  In three years, there have been no further instances of Brush Wolves attacking any of his animals, despite the fact that several wolves have habitually ventured inside the electric fence when they smelled an afterbirth or a carcass.  They still have the donkey to contend with.

Wolves are Not Protected:  With the recent flow of people from unprofitable farmland, new opportunities are opening for the almost extinct eastern Grey Wolf.  There is reported to be a small population of pure Grey Wolves in La Maurice National Park in Quebec.  They are smaller than all other Grey Wolves, excepting the Mexican Wolf.  If on-going tests  prove this report to be correct, these wolves must be protected at all costs.  With the remarkable spread of Brush Wolves throughout eastern Canada and northern New England, there is no question that these two distinct populations overlap.

It is a well known fact that female Wolves (of all varieties), Coyotes, and their Hybrids, will seek out the strongest male they can find during their short breeding season, regardless whether they have a year round consort or not.  This is a necessary ploy to maintain and strengthen the species, and it is during these lone forays that hybridization occurs.

It is bewildering that all the provinces of eastern Canada and the states of northern New England would allow unlimited killing of such closely related species outside our National Parks is unfathomable.  People in the east tend to think of themselves as "ecologically enlightened"  but in reality, that is not the case.  Perhaps someday, a senior level of government or some entity with the resources will sue them for not protecting all varieties of wolves.

To have an affect on this shameful situation, phone or write to your MPP, MP or Congressman.  Only the pressure of their constituents will move them to action.

Some popular fallacies about Coyotes 

1.  Coyotes will not breed with Grey wolves.  (false)
Packs of "Coyotes" have been dna tested in eastern Ontario.  In several cases, the alpha male was a pure Grey wolf.  The alpha female was a Coyote/Red wolf hybrid (Brush wolf) or pure Coyote.   Never the other way around.

2.  The largest Coyotes are found in the northeastern New England States.  (false)
Eastern coyotes first hybridized with Red wolves in Ontario's Algonquin Park.  They have spread out from there as far east as Newfoundland, and as far south as Alabama.  In the early 21st century, large northern male Grey wolves were dropped off in south-eastern Ontario in an effort to decrease the over-abundant deer population.  Since that time, people have reported in many instances, seeing a large male leading a pack of smaller Brush wolves.  The largest "Coyotes" or more accurately Brush wolves, are in Eastern Ontario.

3.  Coyotes can be wiped out through human persecution.  (false)
In every location where Coyotes have been persecuted, they have bounced back by having two litters per year.

4.  Most of the Hybrid Coyotes running throughout the east are crossed with dogs.  (i.e. Coydogs or Dogotes)  (false)
There were isolated instances of Coyote/dog crosses when Coyotes were rare.  However, since they have become abundant, they have crossed with wolves, and will kill dogs they encounter.  The competition for mates is fierce, and domestic dogs that are loose are often emasculated by wandering male brush wolves as a precaution against possible competition.

5.  Pure Grey wolves are always larger than are Brush wolves.  (false)
There are some isolated populations of eastern Grey wolves that are smaller than some Brush wolves.  For example, Eastern Grey Wolves (Canis Lupus Lycaon) of La Maurice National Park in Quebec, and elsewhere in Eastern Canada.

6.  Coyotes and Brush wolves are responsible for most of the predation of White Tail deer.  (false)
Tests by the Governments of Ontario and Newfoundland have proved that Brush wolf predation accounts for about 13% of deer predation, far less than some alarmists have claimed.  The Ontario MNR had to resort to introducing Cougars into Eastern Ontario to have a significant decrease in deer populations.

7.  Domestic dogs can kill Brush wolves.  (false)
The only way domestic dogs can kill Brush wolves is to outnumber them.  One on one, a Brush wolf will quickly kill a domestic dog by shaking it and breaking its neck.  I have personal knowledge that it has happened many times in Eastern Ontario.

8.  Brush wolves will make good watchdogs.  (false)
Brush wolves will not bark, they howl under certain conditions.  They have an innate fear of humans, and will not normally attack.
They will attack other canids (dogs, coyotes or wolves) under certain conditions.

9.  Wolf/dog crosses can not be trusted with domestic animals.  (false)
I met a wolf cross in B.C. that carried a cat around in his mouth (whether the cat liked it or not) and he was a devoted guardian of a goat herd.
When a cross is trained properly, it can make a good guard dog (against animal predators).

10.  Brush wolves will wipe out domestic beef and sheep farming.  (false)
With proper management, (brush wolf) predation on domestic livestock can be reduced significantly or eliminated.

Referencing:  Where not mentioned above, all the incidents and facts related above were either witnessed by me, related to me by my neighbours and friends, included in the Canadian Geographic television presentation “Shape-Shifters”, lifted from books written by John B. Theberge, also the Department of Natural Resources of Nova Scotia, the Ministry of Natural Resources of Ontario, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (Division of Wildlife), the Newfoundland Department of Environment and Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

 Author - Hal MacGregor
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