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.

Which Limb Hurts, or Do All Three?

I first observed that there was a left back-leg injury as seen in this video, but over the course of a couple of hours, three different limbs were held up at various times, as seen in the photos below.

It could be that this two-year-old stressed her forelimbs as she moved about on only three due to the back-leg injury. Or, could she possibly have stepped into a field of thorns, or something like that, which might have affected all of these limbs, and the front limbs only minorly? Or, is it possible that she could be holding up a front paw to let all the other coyotes know that she has been injured? I say this because I know of dogs who switch the leg they hold up even though only one leg was hurt (in one case it was because the bandage was changed to the other leg!) I don’t know the answer.

Only the back-leg limp persisted for longer than the day.  Full weight was applied only gradually at the end of a week and soon she was fine. I’ve noted that limb injuries are not that uncommon in coyotes.

A Coyote’s Story, by AWARE

What follows is the story of a terribly injured coyote rescued and rehabilitated by AWARE. If you want to make more stories like this possible, please give what you can to their year-end campaign. And come back on December 17 for a video showing footage from his recovery!

Early this September, a coyote pup was making his way through a quiet pine forest in rural Fayette County when he came upon a long-forgotten rusty fence. While he was either exploring it or trying to get past it, his front legs become trapped, and he found he could not get away.

The coyote shortly after intake, scared and hiding under a towel.

We’re not sure how long he stayed there, stuck in the fence without food or water, but we do know that a rescuer found him on a stormy Wednesday morning and brought him to AWARE.  When he arrived, AWARE Wildlife Care Supervisors Marielle Kromis and Julia Sparks brought him to our exam room to perform an intake exam. They found that he was very dehydrated and had severe injuries to both front legs. It was clear that he had been struggling to pull the legs free, as the damage was on both sides of each leg. They were both extremely swollen and the wounds were so deep that both the radius and ulna on each leg was exposed. The wounds were seriously infected as well. Continue reading at https://www.awarewildlife.org/coyote/

The coyote after several weeks of progress and therapy.

Eye Sore

This young female coyote spent considerable time rubbing and scratching her sore eye with her wrist, possibly even with her dew claw. When her wrist was not up in her eye to relieve the itch or pain, or possibly to dislodge the irritant, you could see that the eye was red, swollen, teared-up and recessed a little. I don’t know what was going on, except that it bothered her. I’ve seen quite a number of eye-injuries or irritations in coyotes, so it must be a fairly common malady. They are close to the ground where sticks, brambles, grit and bugs could easily get caught in and become lodged in their eyes. Coyotes are particularly dependent on their binocular vision for hunting, so it was important for her to take care of her afflicted eye.

We all tend to forget that wildlife has its share of ailments and injuries, not dissimilar to our own, and that even if these don’t incapacitate an animal, they make it that much more difficult to perform their daily living routines, and can serve to shorten their lives.

By the time I saw her on the next day she was no longer tending the eye — the affliction had passed.

 

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Ear Trouble

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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.

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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

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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

Coyote Father Sustains Bad Injuries

Oh, no!! I watched this coyote walk out of the bushes at noon — he was on his way to another area across the park he inhabits. The limp was bad — there is a deep laceration on the right knee. That’s his mate with him — she walked most of the distance with him, possibly to make sure he was safe. He walked slowly and with effort — it looked painful. Then I saw his face. It’s lacerated over the eye.  And there are several “bite” marks on his body. Two possibilities exist for how he received these lacerations. One, he was in a fight with an adult raccoon parent, or two, he was in a territorial fight with another male coyote. I might include wounds from a domestic dog, but I have yet to see any intense fighting between dogs and coyotes.

I know that the best way for an animal to heel is to leave it alone — nature works miracles if allowed to do so. Trapping an animal to “help” it creates more of a problem for the animal, especially for a parent whose responsibilities are crucial for the survival of his pups. Please, everyone be aware that coyotes may be injured in your area, and please keep your dogs from intruding on them.

Foxtail Season

fox tail

fox tail

Foxtails tend to go one way: IN. The pointed quills make it very difficult for them to be pulled OUT.

I’ve had quite a time removing these from the soft lining in my boots. They become embedded and without a lot of effort, won’t come out. And they hurt!

Dogs frequently get them embedded in their noses or in the webbing of their toes, and it is only by going to a veterinarian that they can be removed. In fact, I know of a vet that wore a beautiful gold foxtail pendant around her neck. She said it was given to her because these beautiful little foxtails are what she made her living off of: extracting them from pets!

coyotes hunt and rest in foxtails

coyotes hunt and rest in foxtails

Our wild critters don’t have the benefit of a veterinarian who could help them, but I’m sure our coyotes are as affected as often as the rest of us. I’ve seen them attempt to pull things from their paws — probably foxtails, and I got a photo the other day (darn, can’t find it — I’ll add it when I find it) of a foxtail stuck to a coyote’s nose, which is what made me think of creating this posting.

Malicious Poisoning on SF’s Twin Peaks

photo of the poisoned meat balls found on Twin Peaks

photo of the poisoned meat balls found on Twin Peaks

There are people in the city who don’t like coyotes. Were coyotes the intended target of this malicious poisoning act?  So far, two poisoned dogs have been reported and treated by the Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services and the SPCA.

One of the owners found baited meatballs in her neighborhood and it has been confirmed that they are what the dogs ate. This was in the Twin Peaks/Diamond Heights area, on Crestline and Burnett Streets especially.

The dog owner has gathered all the meatballs she could find — about 50 of them, but there is no way to know if she got them all.

It appears that the poison is strychnine. Dogs and coyotes exposed to strychnine show agitation, tremors, seizures, hyperthermia and trouble breathing. Strychnine is a poison that afffects the action of glycine in the brain. Glycine acts to turn down activity in the brain, without which a brain becomes too excitable, producing hyper-excitability and seizures. If caught soon, dogs can recover with medical attention. A coyote will just die a horrible death.
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We’ve been told that occasionally individuals will lace meatballs with strychnine in a misguided attempt to control wildlife populations, including skunks, gophers and COYOTES. Hopefully this is an isolated incident.
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http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_23597722/?source=inthenews
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Kiah is a victim

Kiah is a victim

UPDATE: I met Kiah on a walk today. She is one of the victims of the meatball poisoning — she ate two of them before anyone had any knowledge about what was going on. She’s under medical care and her outlook is good. The meatballs have now been found in Cole Valley, Hayes Valley and the Bernal Heights neighborhoods, and it appears that the target of this hideous crime is dogs:

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/poisonous-meatballs-sickening-dogs-in-twin-peaks/Content?oid=2497582
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Update on Leg Injury

wound on left back leg

left back leg wound

I was able to get a really good zoomed-in shot of the limping coyote’s injured leg. I first noted the limp about two weeks ago.

I have no idea if this laceration to the heel and maybe even the Achille’s tendon, as shown in the photo, is what caused the limp, but the laceration looks pretty recent.

Below is a video showing a few seconds of her gait — two weeks after I first noted the injury. She is no longer holding the leg up, but you can see that she is being very careful when putting weight on the leg.

A few days ago, as she crossed a field, I could see that her steps were uneven and jerky, as if she were almost “tripping” every few steps. So the leg has not healed, but it looks like it is improving: she is no longer holding it up when she walks.

Behaviorally, this coyote has been keeping out of view, and I wonder if it is to protect herself during a time when she might not be able to defend herself well or run away quickly should she need to do so.

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