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January 21, 2022

Wildlife experts baffled by mystery canine rescued in Pennsylvania

Is it a coyote? A dog? Genetic samples have been sent to a lab to confirm the animal's identity

Wildlife Canines
Mystery Canine Pennsylvania Tj's Rescue Hideaway/Facebook

This mystery canine was rescued in Fairfield Township, Westmoreland County in western Pennsylvania this week. Wildlife experts are now caring for the animal and awaiting the results of genetic tests to determine whether he's a dog or a coyote.

Most of us probably feel confident that we can spot any old canine and simplify what it is by calling it a "dog." It's not difficult to identify many of the breeds we recognize and keep as domesticated pets — and if we can't figure it out, "mutt" seems to work just fine. 

For animal rescue workers, these distinctions aren't always so clear cut. They can make a big difference in how an animal is handled depending on whether it's a lost pet or a wild animal in need of veterinary care. Sometimes it's a bit of a mystery. 

Earlier this week in western Pennsylvania, a woman came across a cold and shivering animal whose tracks she had spotted outside her house. At first, she thought he must be her neighbor's dog, but a closer look led her to question what kind of canine she had encountered.

**UPDATE** Our story will be airing tonight on WPXI at 5:45 tonight! You will hear our stories and updates as well as...

Posted by Tj’s Rescue Hideaway on Thursday, January 20, 2022

"I wasn't quite sure but its behavior, it was scared and it was cold and all I could think about was this animal needed help," said Christina Eyth, the woman who rescued the animal in Fairfield, Westmoreland County, and spoke with WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh. 

To get help, Eyth contacted Tj's Rescue Hideaway, a small foster-based dog and cat non-profit that focuses on training and rehabilitating strays. In the meantime, she managed to make the animal comfortable at her home. 

The rescue organization wasn't able to determine superficially whether the animal is a dog or a coyote. Both species are canines, but the lines can be blurred between dogs (Canis familiaris), coyotes (Canis latrans) and wolves (Canis lupus) since all are able to interbreed. 

The mangey and underfed state in which this animal was found made using behavioral cues a little less reliable than it might normally be in order to make a distinction.

To play it safe, Tj's Rescue Hideaway passed the animal on to Wildlife Works, Inc. another non-profit organization that focuses specifically on the rehabilitation and release of distressed wildlife. They take in injured, ill and orphaned animals of all kinds, including those that have been impacted by human interference, environmental contamination or habitat destruction.

"They transported it here and got here and I honestly cant definitively say what it is," said Morgan Barron, a certified wildlife rehabilitator with Wildlife Works. "It might be a coyote. We can keep it here, get genetic testing done and go from there. Behavior-wise he's very timid, very scared and not aggressive at all which makes me lean toward dog."

Wildlife Works said it is now treating the animal and has already collected and sent out samples to determine exactly what he is. Updates on his condition will continue at the Facebook page of Wildlife Works — Mount Pleasant. The timeline is expected to be two to four weeks. 

UPDATE: We have started treatment and collected/sent out a sample to determine what exactly he is. It takes anywhere...

Posted by Wildlife Works-Mount Pleasant on Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Pennsylvania has a growing population of wild coywolves, a mixture of species that that has sometimes been spotted in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs with greater frequency over the past several years. Another variation on this is the coydog, which is among the mixed canines that research teams study to gain ecology information that helps inform wildlife management.  

The animal rescued in western Pennsylvania doesn't have an especially obvious resemblance to a coywolf, but it's better to wait for the results of genetic testing than it is to speculate at this point. 

The poor guy does look a bit like Wile E. Coyote after Roadrunner has gotten the best of him a handful of times. Fortunately, he's under the care of experts and should emerge from this experience healthier and happier.

Posted by Wildlife Works Inc. on Tuesday, January 18, 2022