By Pat Cunningham
This one comes courtesy of Pennsylvania Game News magazine, of all places. Coyotes aren’t native to Pennsylvania; the state was a wolf-only zone until around the 1890s. Over the last 60 years or so, however, a coyote-like predator slipped into PA and made itself at home. The Eastern coyote can be found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, the New England states and probably the Jersey Shore in August, along with the rest of the beach bums. Why should seagulls get to do all the scavenging?
So where did it come from? It’s not a typical Western coyote. It’s larger, about 10-15 pounds heavier, and comes in different colors and markings and even thickness of fur. It likes forests, unlike the Western’s preference for wide open spaces, and its larger skull size is well-adapted for killing deer. Suspecting dalliances with domestic or feral dogs, scientists tested the DNA of almost 700 animals. To their surprise they found next to no dog genes but instead a healthy smattering of wolf. Sometime in the last 100 years some wandering coyotes trekking east encountered Great Lakes and Canadian wolves headed south, and a new hybrid species resulted. Genetically it’s more coyote than wolf, bigger than its ancestors but just as sneaky. Prey animals and humans beware.
This opens up all sorts of story possibilities. I had my werewolves and werecoyotes set up as rivals and mistrustful of each other, but at the same time I established the existence of wolf-coyote hybrids. I love it when I guess right.
So what about other species mingling? Every other novel is the story of some human or half-human getting it on with a shifter. Clearly the mating part works and works well no matter what the species. But can they breed? Will the offspring be fertile, or are we talking a whole new definition of “mule”? Wolves and coyotes are close enough genetically for fertile cross-breeding. Is that true of shifters and humans? If so, given the number of books describing the proliferation of pairings, we could be looking at a brand new species. Maybe my postulation of “shifter-Americans” wasn’t so far off the mark.
Okay, humans and shifters can breed, and the kids can reproduce in turn. What about shifter and shifter? We talked about dogs and cats (wolves and lynxes? Coyotes and cougars?) before. They can mate, but I doubt if they can breed. What about jaguars and cougars? Lynxes and lions? I’ll bet a werehorse and an African zebra shifter could produce viable offspring. And God help us if a coyote hooks up with a kitsune, or Japanese trickster/fox. Their kids would take the first five slots on the 10 Most Wanted list.
Okay, your turn. What combos have you come up with? What would the kids be like? Sterile mutations or the forerunners of a new breed? Let’s hear what’s out there, and what you’ve got cooking. Mr. Spock is tired of being the world’s most famous half-breed and is looking for company.