The genetic identity of a 80-pound animal shot in mid-March and believed first to be a coyote is in fact still unknown, Environment and Conservation Minister Terry French told The Telegram today.
“I don’t know what it is,” French said. “They’ve told us everything.”
The story of the massive beast shot by coyote hunter Joe Fleming on the Bonavista Peninsula in mid-March captivated the province and went wild on The Telegram’s website.
French got conflicting reports — wolf, coyote or wolf-coyote-dog hybrid — from DNA tests done by Memorial University and the University of Idaho, and has asked for a comparative analysis, comparing the animal to wolf samples.
The province has an arrangement through its caribou strategy with the University of Idaho. The new results could be known in a little over a week, French told The Telegram.
French thought it prudent to do two tests because of the debate among geneticists about how the animals are intertwined, and because they interbreed.
“I wanted to be sure,” he said.
“Hopefully now when the two of them are done, I will have an independent study from each lab that will hopefully collaborate and hopefully I will be able to announce once and for all what the animal is.”
French said there are a number of rumours it’s a wolf, but there’s also suggestion it’s a coyote or dog.
“Before I make a definitive announcement on this, I want to have the facts perfect,” he said.
While the province waited for results, there has been phenomenal debate over what the animal actually is.
Fleming, The Spillars Cove crab fisherman and avid coyote tracker, shot the animal between Bonavista and Port Rexton on a pole line adjacent a series of marshes.
The province offers a coyote carcass registration reward of $25 as an incentive to gain access to carcasses to assist with biological investigation of the species. This includes carcass evaluation to assess their diets.
The breed of coyote in Newfoundland is known as the eastern coyote, which is believed to have interbred with wolves during their trek from the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, through the Maritimes and into Newfoundland. The species has been blamed for killing animals on the island, such as caribou and young moose.