Rare black coyote sighted in Austin

From just about any tall ridgeline around town you can get a view of the Austin skyline. For J.P.F. Alexander the view from his front porch includes watching a lot of woodland critters running around.

"Especially more around eight or nine until about four in the morning, you start seeing that a little bit more,” said Alexander.

Alexander has never seen a black coyote. Several images of one were recently captured by a camera set up by wildlife officers with Austin Animal Center.

"Our game camera here in Austin is the first official sighting, so it's a pretty cool highlight for me,” Sarah Whitson said.

When the first report came to the center, back in July, Whitson said she had her doubts. That changed after several failed hunts and when her partner downloaded the camera's memory card on October 9.

"Yeah it was a pretty crazy moment my partner was holding the laptop and took off running, and I was oh my gosh was this it, come back," Whitson said.

The discovery was posted on Facebook. The location of where the sighting took place is not being disclosed.

"When we first saw it, we were like shocked, my heart started beating, is this really happening,” said Whitson.  

One reason for the secrecy is the black coyote has three pups and a mate. She is a traditional grey color.

"That’s very impressive, that’s amazing they caught that, that’s definitely a one in a million shot, you're lucky, just happen to walk up to that camera at the perfect angle, it's hard,” said Scott Chambers, Curator at the Austin Zoo.

The dark color of the coyote, according to Chambers, is called melanism.

"Melanism is an increase in a certain pigment in the skin and the fur that cause the black, so you can see, when someone sees a black panther its no panther its just a black leopard, or black jaguar, and if you get really close you can see the spots on it, so its just an increase in a certain pigment,” said Chambers.

A comingling with a domesticated dog or darker colored coyote, according to Chambers, is most likely what produced the black coyote. A black coyote may be rare but the condition is fairly common in nature and it can also happen with other animals. Red foxes are common to texas- and some do come in different colors. The Austin Zoo even has a silver fox that's black. It was rescued from a business near Corpus Christi.

"Again it's another proof of the melanistic trait, as we've talked about, the recessive gene comes though and beats out the dominant gene and makes him more of a black silver color,” said Chambers.

If you ever come across a coyote, regardless of its color, animal experts say don't run but shout at it. Coyotes are afraid of humans but will attack small pets. If you see one, be loud and if it's black, don't forget to take a picture