Ecological invasions of generalist species often are facilitated by anthropogenic disturbance. Coyotes (Canis latrans) have benefitted from anthropogenic changes to North American ecosystems and have experienced a dramatic range expansion since the early 19th century. The region east of the Mississippi River has been colonized via 2 routes that have converged in the mid-Atlantic region during the past few decades. Coyotes using the northern route of expansion show molecular evidence of admixture with the Great Lakes wolf (GLW). We used noninvasive molecular techniques to detect the geographic origins of the recent coyote colonization of northern Virginia as a representative of the mid-Atlantic region and to detect signatures of admixture with GLWs. Of 455 individual canid scats screened, we sequenced a variable 282-base pair fragment of the mitochondrial control region from 126 coyote scats, assigned individual identities to samples using 6 microsatellite loci, and conducted phylogeographic analyses by comparing our sequences to previously published haplotypes. In 39 individuals identified in our scat surveys we detected 7 mitochondrial DNA haplotypes, all of which have been previously reported in diverse surrounding geographic localities. Phylogeographic analyses indicate multiple sources of colonization of northern Virginia. One common haplotype detected in northern Virginia is of wolf origin, indicating the presence of admixed coyotes and GLWs from the north.
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Vol. 92 • No. 5