Wildlife biologists have successfully captured an overly friendly, all-black coyote that had been teasing the greater area of Atlanta, Georgia, for the last two months.
The animal made headlines after a woman captured it playing with her Great Pyrenees in her backyard. Other reports agree that the wild animal was overly comfortable with humans and dogs, seemingly habituated to the presence of humans.
“Wild coyotes are naturally wary, and they typically avoid humans and keep out of sight. This particular coyote's behavior was just the opposite,” Chris Mowry, a biologist with Berry College in Georgia, told IFLScience. He added that the animal was seen jumping fences into backyards, following people while they were walking a dog, and even attempting to enter homes through dog doors.
“This was not a safe situation for the coyote or for local human residents and their pets. The usual protocol of trying to re-instill fear of humans by hazing it did not work. This is what made this situation unique and is why we intervened,” added Mowry.
The unique all-black coloring of the coyote – now named Carmine – is connected to a condition known as melanism, a similar genetic mutation to albinism that instead replaces a lack of pigment with black pigment. Melanism is rare in Canis latrans but the frequency is higher in the southeast part of North America. Previous studies have found at least nine melanistic coyotes over a nine-year period in Georgia, but its cause remains unclear. The same gene also occurs in wolves and could have occurred in coyotes through introgression, a gene jumping from one species to another through hybridization. Dark-colored wolves are more prevalent in forested habitats, which means it could be used as a camouflage strategy, studies suggest.
To begin piecing together the curious case of Carmine, researchers constructed a map to pin down the whereabouts of the black coyote based on reported sightings and locations it likes to frequent. Capturing and relocating coyotes is not generally an option in Georgia as trapped coyotes are required by state law to be euthanized. However, Mowry says that his team was given special permission to relocate the animal by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Led by local no-kill trappers and expert volunteers, the team was able to capture the coyote in the middle of the night in a cage trap, “completely unharmed” and “totally docile” during the entire process of capture and relocation.
The coyote, who was likely just searching for a mate and territory, now has a new home at Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary (YRWS) in suburban Atlanta. The canine is currently doing well and is slated to get its first exam tomorrow.
“Believe it or not, we still aren’t entirely sure of its sex, but strongly suspect it is female. We should know for sure tomorrow,” said Mowry.
Carmine will have to remain in quarantine for some time before being introduced to Wilee, the resident coyote at YRWS.