Ray Labat got quite a shock when he was reviewing trail cam pics from his deer lease in Washington Parish earlier this year.

On the afternoon of Jan. 13 a little after 4 p.m., what appears to be a black coyote passed within range of a camera that was facing down a shooting lane near Bogalusa. 

“I’ve never seen one like that,” said Labat, of Luling. “It looks bigger than the coyotes I’ve seen on my lease. I’ve not had any of my club members see it or get a picture of it, and that’s the only one I have of him.”

Labat was just happy he never encountered the animal heading to his stand early in the morning, or walking out late in the evening.

“I tell you what, if he’d have walked out there when I was in the stand, I’d have busted his butt because he would have been right on top of me,” he said. 

Labat has shared the photo with friends, and opinions are mixed on the animal’s true identity.

“They just  seem to think it’s a huge coyote, but  my personal opinion is it inner-bred with a wild dog somewhere. But you would think if that was the case you’d have a bunch of pictures of the offspring in that area, but that’s the only picture I have of him,” he said. “But hell, you don’t see many coyotes. They’re out there and you hear them hollering, but they’re so slick you don’t ever get to see them.”

As it turns out, Dr. Jim Lacour, the state wildlife veterinarian with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, agreed with Labat’s assessment after reviewing the trail cam photo on Tuesday.

“If you want my guess, it’s either a black coyote or a black coy dog — a coyote/dog cross,” Lacour said. “It’s likely the second, just because of what appears to be the size of the animal.

“And looking at the tail and how bushy and course it is — even for a German Shepherd — that’s not the normal hair consistency of that tail. It looks more like a coyote tail to me. So I would say, yes, it has coyote blood in it.”

Lacour stressed that he could only venture a guess from the picture, and said he would need the canine’s skull to complete morphometric measurements that would absolutely solve the mystery. The animal did appear tall, but Lacour said the state’s coyote population is varied.

“The further you get into the marsh, the longer their legs get. Typically with marsh coyotes, I guess it’s an adaptation to walking and sinking a little bit in the mud,” he said. “Also, they probably had some red wolf influences on them more in the marshes and toward the western part of the state back in the day when we had red wolves, so they inner-bred and so that added some size to those coyotes as well.”

If the animal is actually a black coyote, Lacour said they’re not as rare as you might think.

“I have one that shows up every year on the trail camera at my house,” Lacour said. “They’re not as common as a black fox squirrel, but they are not rare.”