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.

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