Phil Myers had heard the stories from Cheboygan County farmers: tales of odd, oversized animals that looked bigger than a coyote, but smaller than a wolf, and hunted in packs — and how strange they sounded.
He wanted to hear for himself.
Wolves are known to have a rendezvous point where, in the evening, individual wolves that may be sleeping all over get together as a pack to go off hunting, said Myers, a now-retired professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan. Based at U-M's Biological Station in Cheboygan County, researchers had found dens, and what they thought was a rendezvous point.
So, one night last August, Myers parked his pickup about a quarter-mile from the spot and listened.
"As the full moon goes up above the jackpines, one of these things starts howling — it wasn't the yipping of a coyote or the full voice of a wolf; but a hoarse, sustained call," he said.
"About five minutes later, I hear a bark from my right, then a bark from my left, five or six of them. I was surrounded by them. But this was in forest and swampland; these were no dogs. Those were pack-mates coming into this rendezvous point.
"It was probably at least an hour before the hairs on the back of my neck sat down."
Myers' close encounter was with a unique, still relatively unknown and misunderstood hybrid of coyotes known as eastern coyotes or coywolves. They're mostly coyote, but contain a small percentage of wolf from an unlikely mating of the two species about a century ago. It may sound like an urban legend, but coywolves exist throughout the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada, and have been confirmed in northeast Lower Michigan through blood-testing and DNA analysis.
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