Scout and her Family’s Story Continues: Captain is killed, likely by Rat Poison

The above photo was taken on October 23rd. That’s the last day we saw *Captain* alive. By the 25th he was no longer appearing. Captain was an almost seven-month old pup of Scout’s. We found his body deep within some brambles, only a couple of feet off of a small footpath. I wish we had found him sooner: a necropsy could not be performed because the body was not fresh enough: it was already covered with bugs and smelled foul.

The body was found in a park, far from where a car could have hit him: he was not killed by a car — there was no such trauma to the body. Note the same scar on his forehead in life above and death below. I normally would not be able to identify a dead coyote since I use their open eyes and expressions to identify them, but with an obvious mark of this type, I was able to.

The obvious conclusion is that he died of rat poisoning. In my last posting I talked about his mother, Scout’s, recent absence for almost two weeks. We feared that a coyote hit by a car in the area might have been her, but it was her yearling son. She finally re-appeared for several days, but exhibiting slowed-down behavior. She continues to appear irregularly and in much more inconspicuous locations than in the past. Might she, too, have ingested a less-than-lethal dose of rat poison? This kind of lethargy is a symptom of rat-poisoning. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her. By the way two cats in the neighborhood died of rat-poison at the same time as did Captain. Please talk to your neighbors about not using rat-poison. WildCare in San Rafael can talk to you about much safer and more effective ways to control rats: Please Don’t Use Rat Poisons.

RAT POISON in Smaller Doses — When It Doesn’t Kill Right Off

Rat poison kills by use of the ingredient warfarin, or a second generation thereof, which thins the blood. In small doses, humans take a similar drug known as cumaden to prevent strokes. In high doses, these kill by causing the organism to bleed internally — massively. It’s a horrible, tortuous death. It should not be allowed. Rats can be eliminated in a more humane manner if need be.

Very small doses of rat poison may not immediately kill the owl, hawk, or coyote that consumes the poisoned rat, but the effects are just as insidious over a longer period of time. The poison accumulates and compromises the ability to live in various ways, most notably by slowing them down. They are not as alert or as fast or as acute as they once were, so living becomes more difficult and even dangerous for them.

One of the effects of rat poisons on coyotes is that it compromises their immune systems, leaving them particularly vulnerable to parasites, including mites of all types. The worst, of course, is mange. Rat poison doesn’t cause mange, of course, but it can be a highly contributive factor because it weakens the immune system which fights off these mites. If you see a coyote whose fur is riddled with mites, or who has mange, it may very well be rat poison which allowed the mite infestation to take hold.

Please don’t use rat poison. Also, please try and help any animal that has an ailment — they can be helped by calling your wildlife rehabilitation agency.

Rats can be eliminated in a humane way. The best way is by exclusion and removing the attractants: plug up the holes in your home and remove/contain food sources. Within two weeks, they’ll leave. Alternatively, there are high-frequency devices which drive the animals away (but probably also the birds). Lastly, you can call a pest-removal service that uses humane traps. Please note that most private pest-management companies will either drown the rat or suffocate it to death with industrial strength carbon dioxide – both methods are extremely painful. The animal needs to be killed humanely.

To find a trapper in your area, please Google “humane trapper”. For rodent control alternatives, please visit or

Killed by RAT POISON

killed by rat poison

My friend found her, having been led there by her dog, CC, who is an incredibly inquisitive, active explorer, even on-leash. And my friend lets her dog lead the way. This time she was lead to where a dead coyote lay hidden in the bushes. My friend knew it was a canid, but when she wrote me about it, she referred to it as a *creature*, knowing that a coyote death would upset me, especially where I knew all the coyotes.

She told me its general location and sent me a photo showing tree branches. I was able to find the coyote because of the photo. The type of tree under which the coyote lay would be found only in a certain area. That is the area I searched until I found the critter. I was crushed when I first saw it. It was a young coyote with very ruffled and light colored fur — I’ve seen yearlings with this coloring. This coyote must have recently dispersed from another area, because she was not from the territory in which she had been found. I know those coyotes well, and this one was not one of them, and I had not seen her ever before.

She was wedged in there, held in by a broken branch poking into her neck. It was a tangle of branches, and I had to bend over, and go over and under, being careful to avoid getting branches in my face. I wondered if this animal might have become trapped there, but I was able to move this branch without too much effort, so probably not. On the other side of the tree limb which she was under, her face could be seen with the eye facing up being opened. It was a gorgeous blue. Young coyotes often have blue eyes.

Most coyotes in cities are killed by cars, but this coyote was found right in the middle of a park, past the backyards of a row of houses, not close to any streets, so she probably would not have been hit by a car. I didn’t see any trauma to her body.

What to do? I thought about it only a moment and decided on a necropsy. Those on the sidewalk watching me were very happy about this decision. We all wanted to know what had killed this coyote. I walked to a store which was only 2 minutes away to get 55 gallon bags. I was able to bag the coyote by pushing it into the large bag with another smaller plastic bag over my hand. A man who was there offered to carry it to the car.  This young coyote must have weighed a mere 25 pounds at most.

I got home and called Wildcare, and after some back and forth conversation, my husband drove me up to San Rafael where Wildcare is located. Initially they did an X-ray which showed a VERY full stomach. But there was no trauma to the body — no broken bones or ribs. What could have killed her?

Several weeks later, I was called with the results of the necropsy report: She had died of massive internal bleeding due to rat poisoning. There were actually four different types of rat poisons found in her liver, with the highest poison concentration being Bromadiolone, so she had eaten bad rats from at least four sources, and she may have eaten the poison pellets herself. Each brand of rat poison only carries ONE of the poisons. Different people buy different brands. This shows that many people in the area are using rat poisons. Wildcare is finding rat poison in most of the animals it treats — isn’t this incredible? I’ll be working with Wildcare to help get information out about poisons — and hopefully folks will become aware of the harm poisons cause to our wildlife, and hopefully they’ll stop using them.


[see May writeup in Noe Valley Voice]

killed by rat poison


%d bloggers like this: