We all age. We are aware of this passing of time in our grandparents and even in ourselves, and also in our pets. Joints get stiff, energy diminishes, vision and hearing become impaired, past injuries make themselves known again, there is a slower recovery period. We slow down physically, and sometimes mentally. It happens to all life.
I would wager that few of us are aware of the aging process in the wildlife that surrounds us. Time and life in general take their toll on them, too.
The reason I’m bringing this up is because I’ve been watching an older coyote who squints more and more lately — it’s a regular behavior now — when she is looking out into the distance. An aging coyote can lose clarity of vision, can develop cataracts and glaucoma, just like other dogs and like humans. The squinting has been going on for several months, and I have not noticed anything particularly wrong with the eyes, such as discharge or inflammation, so I have to assume it’s simply due to more difficulty with seeing.
A friend gave this explanation about squinting: Squinting allows you to focus better. Its not so much about changing the shape of the lens in the eye which fine tunes focus, it’s more about changing the light entering the eye — a bit like narrowing the aperture of the camera. Squinting gets rid of light “noise” allowing a slight improvement of focus.
Coyotes may squint for other reasons. For instance, coyotes may squint at another coyote or dog they don’t like who they see wandering in the distance — it indicates dislike. If the object of dislike is close enough, squinting becomes a warning device — a communication — which can be read and should be heeded by the other animal. However, the squinting I’ve been observing in this older coyote is not about dislike nor is it a warning because it only occurs when there is no other critter around.
Although I’ve read that dogs squint when they are having vision problems, including glaucoma and cataracts, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it. It seems to me that dogs are usually more absorbed in their immediate surroundings — they have little, if any, need to be looking for something specific in the far distance. Coyotes, on the other hand, are always surveying their domains. They search for what is going on: they need to see as far and wide as possible. If they are older and squinting as they scan the horizon from a hilltop, might it be because of aging eyes?
Feb 27, 2011 Draft