WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A PBS special that looks at how coywolves, or eastern coyotes, are adapting to urban areas features the work of two researchers who have tracked the animals from Westchester County into New York City.
Chris Nagy and Mark Weckel from the Mianus River Gorge Preserve in Bedford will be part of "Nature: Meet the Coywolf," which airs Wednesday.
Coywolf is the term some researchers use for eastern coyotes, which are thought to be a cross between western coyotes and eastern wolves living in Canada.
Such interbreeding is many generations removed, Nagy said. Scientists estimate coyotes roaming the fields and woods of the East contain anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent wolf DNA. Once thought limited to those open spaces, the animals are becoming more comfortable amid the asphalt and parks of the region's cities, "slipping unnoticed into ... Toronto, Montreal, Boston and even New York," according to PBS.
"In the 1990s, a few coywolves were seen in the outer boroughs of New York City, in Queens and the Bronx. But they were thought to be outliers moving through in search of territory. Now, two wildlife biologists, Mark Weckel and Chris Nagy, are setting out to prove this may no longer be the case," the program's narrator explains.
The segment was filmed in September 2012 and features Weckel and Nagy setting up an automatic camera in a park in Queens. They have strapped similar cameras to trees in Yonkers, the Bronx and Manhattan. The trail cameras detect movement and have made dozens of photographs of coyotes.
The two began tracking coyotes in 2006. Breeding populations exist in the Bronx and occasional animals show up in northern Manhattan and Queens, Nagy said Monday.
"We were the only ones really looking at them in New York City," he said.
Weckel now works for the American Museum of Natural History, but the two plan to continue their Gotham Coyote Project.
Next up is collecting their droppings and analyzing the coyotes' DNA to learn how local animals are related.