A clear majority of mammal species have been in decline throughout North America over the last several decades, but one of those in particular seems to defy these odds: the humble coyote.
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Citing a paper published in the journal ZooKeys by researchers from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and North Carolina State University, coyote populations exploded across North and Central America over the last 10,000 years.
Upon studying more than 12,500 records including archeological and fossil records, museum specimens, peer-reviewed reports, and game department records, the researchers uncovered further clues about where coyotes originated and how they moved across the North American landmass.
As it would seem, coyotes inhabited a more substantial portion of North America early on than initially thought. From 1900 until 2016, coyotes migrated as far North as the state of Alaska and as far East as the Eastern coast.
"The expansion of coyotes across the American continent offers an incredible experiment for assessing ecological questions about their roles as predators, and evolutionary questions related to their hybridization with dogs and wolves," said study lead author James Hody.
"By collecting and mapping these museum data we were able to correct old misconceptions of their original range, and more precisely map and date their recent expansions."
But how did coyote populations expand so quickly in recent years amid declines of so many other mammal species?
The most likely answer lies with human-related behavior, such as agriculture and forest fragmentation, forced them outside of their typical comfort zone and into new habitats. One might also attribute hybridization with dogs and wolves as another factor.
The research sheds light on much of the coyote’s migratory past and where they could be heading next. As of now, all signs suggest that they’re beginning to trek into South American territory with no indication of slowing down.
Without a doubt, coyotes have proven their resourcefulness and adaptability to various environments.