Injured Coyote Update

The injured coyote I wrote about in my last posting is doing great even though he does not have full use of his foot yet! He’s walking, running, and kicking up his heels for the fun of it, having a fantastic time with his mate. But it might not have been this way.

Apparently people on NextDoor had contacted a wildlife rehabilitator to actually trap this coyote — I was asked to participate by monitoring the trap. This “plan” came about based solely on visual reports, by well-meaning folks on that forum, that a coyote was injured — subject and situation unseen by the trapper who also didn’t know much about coyotes. I was not too happy about this because it was obvious to me that this was a step which should not be taken. It was almost four weeks after the injury and the animal was improving well on his own.

I explained the situation to them: That this coyote was healing beautifully, was able to run well on three legs, hunted wonderfully and could take care of himself. That he just needed to be left alone: the animal was very mobile and interference was not necessary. That the best thing that could be done for him was to give him space and to keep dogs from chasing him, because this was probably what caused the injury in the first place. The WORST thing in this case would be to “rescue” him — it was a short-sighted plan that neglected to look at the whole picture. This coyote is part of a very happy newly formed family unit, and trapping would absolutely disrupt what he had going for him. Coyotes are resilient and live beautifully in the wild even with huge handicaps. I sent videos to show the improvement over that last month. The day after the injury. Three weeks after the injury. And now, please take a look at the video above, six weeks after the injury.

When the coyote first showed up with a hefty limp, it appeared that the foot might be dislocated or broken. He could not use the leg at all and held it up. But within a day he had learned to run on three legs and continued to hunt well, so I didn’t want to interfere (see addendum below). Nonetheless, to cover all bases, I sent photos and videos to a veterinarian and I contacted Lou, my rancher friend who has had an intimate association with countless wild coyotes for 30 years.

The veterinarian responded, saying that indeed the foot looked either dislocated or broken in some way, which potentially could lead to problems in the long run. She said that there was no really good way to address this in a wild animal other than complete capture and wildlife vet intervention to surgically fuse his ankle. And then likely a wildlife sanctuary life for him. Otherwise, she said, we let nature take its course: allow the foot to self-fuse (self-arthrodesis). Once it is “fused” more weight will be placed on it, but this process can take months. The veterinarian agreed that the best option was to allow the coyote to heal on his own.

San Francisco Animal Care and Control (ACC) agreed that this would be the best course of action, and I also contacted Lou, my rancher friend for his input:

I concur with leaving the injured coyote. A coyote is a finely tuned canine and capture along with captivity, then release surely changes them and likely not for better. Also, most people cannot comprehend how tough canines are, especially wild coyote. Many a coyote has lived long and well with serious, permanent injury or debilitating condition. If a coyote had a choice, he would rather heal slowly or partially in wild then quick in captivity.

Wounded but still wild and healing is how the coyote has developed into such a super canine. They have learned to survive and thrive in a dangerous, painful at times, world.

One of the local coyotes is instantly recognized by his permanent limp, and scarred body. He is unusally banged up and old yet has been a dad and leader for years. A bum leg or foot hasn’t stopped him in the very least.

Although the coyote may not recover to exactly how he was before the injury, I’m told he’ll recover enough to lead as full a life as ever. Capture and confinement, which is what medical aid would entail, would unnecessarily terrorize the coyote and alter his “wildness” forever. We don’t need to do this. And most importantly, the possibility of life in a sanctuary is not an acceptable option for this coyote who is happy with his newfound mate right where he is. There are always tradeoffs, and this time the scales were in favor of leaving the animal in his fantastic social situation to heal on his own over an immediate but disruptive and traumatizing “fix”.

Addendum: Ten years ago I looked on and watched another coyote heal from a much worse upper leg and hip injury — most likely a break. The leg was dragged for months on end. I could see that she was able to take care of herself, so I decided to watch her instead of opting for an immediate fix requiring removal. I’m glad I did, because unbeknownst to anyone, it turned out that she was a single mom with two pups (well hidden, obviously) who would have perished had she been interfered with. Anyway, this taught me that we humans can’t possibly know all contingencies. IF nature CAN heal a wound/injury, I learned, it should be allowed to do so.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gail
    Dec 23, 2018 @ 01:53:10

    Such a happy update, Janet!
    Thank you!


  2. ASH
    Dec 23, 2018 @ 02:05:08

    You do a beautiful thing here


  3. Linda Potter
    Dec 23, 2018 @ 20:25:47

    Wonderful story of letting wild animals heal on their own whenever possible. Your stories add so much to our knowledge about coyotes.


  4. Kathy
    Dec 23, 2018 @ 23:14:04

    Good work, Janet. Coyotes are so resilient. About a year ago our little girl, Cheyenne, broke her leg very badly. So badly it needed to be amputated on Friday and on Saturday she was running around as if she had always had 3 legs. They recover very well and learn to compensate for any injuries they may have.


  5. Martha hall
    Dec 24, 2018 @ 02:41:07

    We watched a similar event with one of the deer that roam through our town feeding in backyards and the adjacent open spaces. A regular in our yard, a doe, showed up with a broken leg likely caused by a car or chase by a dog. We wondered what was best as we debated the choices for a deer, and worried about the pain she must be in. She put little or no weight on the injured leg for a very long time. No one intervened. Much to our surprise, this doe survived with the leg healing in a deformed shape that she used with a limp. The next spring she showed up with twin fawns that she raised. We rehabbed wildlife for 18 years but many years ago. Sometimes it is difficult to not do anything.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Dec 24, 2018 @ 03:27:50

      Hi Martha! Yes, it’s difficult for us humans not to do anything, but that’s often the best course of action. We need examples like these to help us all learn! Thank you for sharing your story! Janet

  6. Cindie White
    Jan 04, 2019 @ 07:04:57

    Amazing, potent story. THANK YOU for your love and protection of the coyotes! Thank you for educating. Thank all this coyote is still wild and with his family!!!


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