Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Expert determines Illinois animal is Coy-dog

By Stacey Creasy - Editor

MONMOUTH - The animal that was struck by a vehicle turned out to be a Coy-dog instead of a wolf. Dick Bowman of Monmouth spotted an animal Saturday that looked like the Gray Wolf on the north side of US 74, about one-half mile east of the rest area, a few miles past Knoxville. Bowman said the animal is 66 inches long. He estimated it to weigh more than 90 pounds.

The dog was taken to a lab in Galesburg where wildlife biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Kevin Oller examined it. "It is not a Gray Wolf, it's a Coy-dog," Oller stated. "A wolf is taller, with longer legs. They also have larger feet."

Oller said he can understand why there was some confusion. The coloration of the dog was similar to that of a wolf. Oller still considers the animal to be a rare find. "Coy-dogs are not common," he added. "I've been here 16 years and this appears to be the first Coy-dog we've had since I've been here."

Since the 1960s there have only been three Coy-dogs at the lab in Galesburg. Coy-dogs are a mix between coyotes and dogs. The breeding between the two are rare, according to Oller.

In recent years there has only been one confirmed Gray Wolf in central Illinois. It was found in Putnam County. "That was a wolf from the Michigan Peninsula that got the wanderlust," said biologist Ken Russell said. "It was a wolf that had been tagged with a monitoring device and wound up in central Illinois."

Oller said coyotes are common in the region. Oller believes the coyotes migrated here from the western states. The main diet for coyotes is rodents. "They like to eat animals like mice and rabbits," Oller explained.

At one time Gray Wolves did call Illinois home, along with bison, elk and the prairie chicken. Oller said civilization forced the animals to move elsewhere.

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