Last month's reported sighting of a "coywolf" — a coyote-wolf hybrid — in North Andover unleashed speculation about whether such a creature pads Bay State forests and streets.
Some wildlife officials hold that Massachusetts coyote are just that — coyote; while other biologists maintain the eastern coyote is a hybrid of the western coyote and eastern wolf.
Whatever they are, sightings of the animals are reported from time to time in Swampscott.
Town Animal Control Officer Diane Treadwell doesn't know enough about the biology of the animals to have a position on whether they are a wolf-hybrid. But she noticed a distinct difference between coyote spotted in 2010 and 2011 and the beautiful animals she saw last summer.
The officer said the difference, however, was due to their health.
In 2010 and 2011, there were many sightings of sickly appearing coyote with scant coats thinned by mange.
Likely these fur-deprived coyote came into the open seeking sunlight to warm themselves.
She suspects these animals died off.
There were fewer coyote sightings in 2012 when the Swampscott population was healthy, although she saw some spectacular gray, black and brown coyote last summer.
They had distinctive markings. And they looked bigger, with plenty of meat on their bones.
"Yeah, I was in awe," she said. "This is what a coyote should look like."
The Swampscott animal control officer says the best thing to do if people see coyote around their yards is to leave them alone.
It's a good idea to keep cats and small dogs in the house.
Coyote are creatures of habit. If a homeowner makes a small change, such as rearranging their garbage barrels or adding a light, usually that is enough to deter coyote from hanging around, she said.
About this time of year, the coyote are having babies, she said.
Whether these babies or their mothers have wolf in them, it's hard to say, but the coyote are around.
One coyote in the area may like music.
Last summer, one got comfy at the treeline on Devereux Road in Marblehead and hung out while the Jessica Prouty Band practiced.
Check out this article's cover photo, courtesy of Teresa Collins, to see the Prouty Band coyote with ears cocked to the side.