Ear Trouble

2015-10-08 (1)

Coyote ears are large and their hearing is keen. Ears are crucial for a coyote’s hunting and self-protection. Even though protected by fur, sometimes, a foreign object can get in there and get stuck. The usual response of the animal is to shake its head, rub the ear with a paw, or scratch at it with a hind leg. All those tricks had been tried by this young coyote here, but these activities were not intense. As I watched her during the afternoon, what stood out was the way she held her one ear — the left one — really low.

What could have been causing the problem? Could something have entered into and be lodged in her ear? It’s well past foxtail season. Foxtails are the nemesis of all dogs in the area. These foreign objects have to be surgically removed because, since they are grass awns — barbed seeds — they work their way IN and can’t come out — it’s a one way journey. These barbs can cause infections in many dogs and having them removed helps keeps our vets in business.  I’m wondering how a coyote might cope with one of these, especially if it causes an infection. Since the next day this gal was okay, I’m going to assume the ear problem, however annoying and irritating, involved something small, such as a bug or small grain of debris.


photo by Charles Wood

“Mom” in the Los Angeles coyote family which Charles Wood wrote about for this blog (enter “Charles Wood” into the search box to find his postings) had an ear which shriveled up due to end stage otitis, according to a vet contacted by Charles. It resulted in a permanent disfiguration and therefore an identifying mark for her.

A New Wound


This new wound stands out, not only because it was not there yesterday, but because of its flaming blood-red coloring. This is a four-inch gash which, however, looks as though it has not ripped through the skin. My guess is that it was caused by some man-made item which the coyote encountered during a recent trek.

Living in the wild is not easy. Let’s not make it any harder for them. If you have pipes or anything sharp which could injure our wildlife, please try to remove these things from your yards. Our wild animals do not have the benefit of medicine which we and our domestic pets have. Let’s hope this heals quickly without getting infected.

Eye Injury

We all forget that wildlife suffers constant injuries: it’s not all that easy being a wild animal. In some cases, an injury could result in a permanent disability: I’ve seen coyotes with only three legs, with lacerations, with eye injuries, and I’ve wondered how long these injured animals might have to survive. If they do survive disabling injuries, life becomes that much more difficult for them, on top of a life in the wild that isn’t all that easy in the first place.

Here’s a coyote I caught with an apparent eye injury. The irritation plagued the coyote during the entire length of a day: whenever I spotted him, he was trying to wipe away whatever was in there. Probably a foreign object had lodged there, but it might have been a scratch or laceration. I suppose this fella was lucky: several days later I saw him and the irritant was gone. There are always hazards to contend with in nature — it’s why wild animals don’t live particularly long lives.

Ailments and Injuries: Infected Eye

We tend to forget that animals go through the same ailments and injuries that we do, only they don’t have medicines to help themselves out. I guess it really doesn’t matter, because nature seems to work pretty well. This coyote had an oozing eye infection which progressively got worse for a couple of days, but his immune system must be a healthy one because as of today, a week later, the eye looks like it’s back to normal. The watering eye may have been a minor hindrance for a few days — he may have missed a few hunting opportunities, but it probably did not slow him down in any major ways.

The eye may have been scratched either by a gopher the coyote had caught, or possibly by a twig he had brushed up against. I’m reminded that injuries can happen at any time to any of us by a friend who recently took her dog out for a hike along a rustic trail, and upon returning found that he had jabbed himself with a stick which went in a full two inches. The dog had to have surgery and stitches!

oozing eye infection

oozing eye infection

More Nicks and Dents

More wounds

More wounds

Oh, no!! More gashes and lesions are appearing on the wounded yearling male I posted about earlier. He’s looking totally pockmarked. What is going on? Is he being attacked? These are the kinds of wounds which are inflicted by another coyote. Is another family member, or several family members, attempting to drive this fellow out of the family pack? And is he refusing to go? Or is something else going on?

The Wound Got Bigger

We’ve worried about the fella with the two wounds which was posted a couple of weeks ago. The wound on its haunches grew larger and redder over the next few days, maybe due to its becoming infected. Intervention is always a bad idea unless it is absolutely necessary. Trapping a coyote is extremely traumatic and harmful to these wild creatures. If antibiotics were to be offered, say, hidden in food, there is no guarantee that the right animal would get them.

I recently spoke to a medical doctor about it.  The coyote has been biting and licking it, which I thought was making the condition worse. In fact, it turns out that licking is the best that can happen. Animal saliva contains some antibiotic properties, so this self-medication is the best proactive measure — and it’s being done by the animal himself!


Paw Injury

He just sat there at first, but the minute he stood up, I could tell there was pain in a paw. Sure enough, within a moment he held it up to keep the weight off of it. When he finally walked, the limp was subtle, but very definite.

He walked in a wide, wide circle around me and looked at me forlornly with ears “airplaned” out to the sides. He moved slowly, coping with the injury and perhaps resigned to living with the pain for a while. I had seen this exact same scenario before in his mother when she had been hit by a car four years ago: ears down, painful movements and a look of sadness. The sadness — I speculated that it might be due to the heavy weight of responsibility she bore — there had been pups to feed. And this was the case with this injured father coyote. Although the father’s injury was not nearly as severe as his mother’s four years ago, I was reminded of the pain, the resignation and that forlorn look from that past injury. In addition to pain, an injury puts a huge damper on what a coyote can do to protect and feed its family — this injury actually occurred back in July, but I forgot to post it. In July there were young pups involved.

I wondered how much parental injury contributes to the low survival rate of young coyote pups. I’ve heard it’s as low as 5-20% in the wild — that’s 5-20% survival rate in their first year. There’s no time to take a break when young pups are around: parents must catch enough food for themselves, and enough food to feed a litter of pups whose nutritional needs, since they are growing, is substantial.

Do coyotes know and comprehend when their ability to live up to their parental responsibilities has been compromised? It is a thought that crossed my mind four years ago when his mother was in the same situation. Of her pups, back then, only two survived, but I don’t know how many she began with.

The father coyote walked ahead and lay down a safe distance from me. He looked over at me and he licked the top of his paw a few times. Then he slowly got up and slowly walked into the bushes.

lying down to lick his paw                                airplane ears

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