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.





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.


She kept scratching and scratching. She’d get up to move on, and then immediately again be on her haunches, scratching.

She kept it up for over 20 minutes, with that leg boing, boinging up and down for that length of time. The scratching has been particularly intense over the last few days. I’m hoping that it’s just a bug that she hasn’t been able to get, or maybe it’s just that there are a lot of them: ticks or fleas.

I don’t know if she’s trying to ease an itch or an irritation. Her coat is extremely thick, which impedes the claws from reaching whatever it is that is bothering her. Shedding has begun and will continue through June, so maybe the scratching is helping to remove some of the loose fur.

My one worry with constant scratching of this sort is the possibility of mange — a killer. Mange results from a mite that buries itself into the skin, causing severe discomfort which the coyote attempts to relieve through such intense scratching that the fur is slowly removed, leaving the skin exposed with lesions. This is a prime killer of coyotes. Apparently all canines, including domestic dogs, carry the mites which are transferred from mother to pups via cuddling during the first few days of life. Most canines live in harmony with their mites — but things could get out of balance when the immune system is compromised or if there are other underlying health issues.

There are no bare patches of skin, so, I’m hoping it’s just fleas or ticks. I’m monitoring this one.

Left Back Leg: New Injury or Old Injury Acting Up?

holding up the back left leg

holding up the back left leg

She’s been limping for several days now. It was barely perceptible at first, and I questioned myself as to if it really was a limp. But now it has gotten worse — a definite limp.

I’ve not yet trained myself to recognize, by the stride, if the injury is in a paw, wrist, knee, hip or shoulder — veterinarians apparently can do this. But even I can tell that it’s the back left leg because she holds it up regularly, not wanting to put her weight on it, and her gait is not smooth.

It doesn’t seem to hamper her ability to move. I still see her climbing steep inclines and rocks — but it might be hampering her speed. And the injury might be the reason she keeps much further away from people and dogs, all the time lately.

I wonder how much it hurts. I know it hurts because she’s holding it up. Pain serves a purpose — it tells her “don’t use this appendage”.

Is this a new injury, or is it an old injury coming back to haunt its victim? Four years ago, this same coyote sustained a severe injury on her hind back left leg after being hit by a car, the same leg she is now holding up. That leg retains large black scars from that incident. Is this that injury acting up, or is it a new injury? No way to know. I’ll keep tabs on it.

Anyway, life is short in the wild. Every injury or disease takes its toll. A coyote can live 14 years in captivity — but what a horrible worthless life that would be. In the wild, the average life expectancy of a coyote is about five years. Do we even know how long coyotes live in the urban wild? Many urban coyotes are killed by cars. In some areas of the country, coyotes are trapped and killed in urban/suburban areas. Most coyotes everywhere endure all sorts of diseases and injuries. Whenever there is an injury, I think about it specifically and globally.

Tick’ed Off

This video is a long one, four and a half minutes. One coyote is removing ticks from the other, and the other is enjoying the exquisite attention and massage, closing its eyes to relish this personal grooming session. The behavior not only serves the purpose of removing unhealthy ticks, it serves to strengthen the social bond between these two. The affection between these two is tremendous.


Ticks seem to be out now. My last posting showed a coyote grooming another — it looked as though ticks were being removed. Here is a coyote photo I’ve blown up — the ticks are very visible on the ears. Since we don’t have deer in the city of San Francisco, there is little risk of Lyme Disease. The ticks eventually fall off of coyotes with healthy immune systems. However, I have seen an unhealthy deer which the ticks clung to — it’s entire neck was literally covered with this blood-sucking insect.

Something Is Bothering Me Here

When I saw this coyote, my first impression was that its paw might be hurt: the paw was being held up in a limp fashion. But the coyote then struggled to reach something under her arm in the armpit — that is a hard place to reach. It didn’t take long for the problem to be fixed. The coyote then got up and continued her wanderings. I did not see her return her attention to the armpit.  It was probably just a burr or a bug.

Asking For Help And Receiving Some

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 Slide show has 21 slides.

I was able to get these shots between wafts of fog that kept blowing in and leaving. What is going on here is that one coyote is bothered by something on her tail area. Whatever it was, she wanted it off — possibly it was causing discomfort — maybe it was a burr or something like that which was pinching or had become embedded in her skin.

What is of interest is that this coyote was able to communicate her need to the other, and the other tried his best to help. However, the problem was not solved by his attempts to help, as can be seen by the coyote with the problem trying again to remove the source of discomfort on her own in slide #9. It appears that she was unable to do this.

Slide #10 shows that she then continued soliciting his help: walking or rolling in front of him and thrusting that sore spot in front of him.  Maybe he knew his help would be futile, or maybe he got tired of helping, or maybe the message was not so clear this time, but his interest shifted to leading them both into the woods and out of my view. I’m hoping that maybe he helped her some more once they were under cover.

Dad’s Health, by Charles Wood


Tuesday I found a spot in the nature preserve that seemed good.  I had a long view of a straight paved utility road and hoped to catch crossing it a very young coyote.  I got tired of waiting and walked slowly down the road.  A tree squirrel alerted a bit too far from me.  I stopped to listen for why.  Behind a tall wall of drying wild mustard I heard a quiet rustling coming knee high ever so slightly towards me through the brush.  I backed off immediately and retreated fifty feet.  Then a coyote pushed onto the road where I had been standing.  It was Dad.

August (a)

He stared, shook himself for his face being slightly wet and then trotted away from me on the road.  He cut into the brush on the side opposite from which he had come.  I continued leaving, knowing that Dad would re-emerge and that if I wasn’t quick enough, he would do so ahead of me.  We know each other’s tricks.  Tantalizingly, along the road on the side from which Dad had first appeared, more rustles came from the brush, although I couldn’t take time to investigate.  Dad appeared behind me as I arrived at the exit.

August (b)

Last April Dad looked fit.  Tuesday, allowing for this season’s sparser coat and for his head being a little wet, he nevertheless looked gaunt and his face looked whitened, like that of an old coyote.  I love that coyote and I couldn’t believe the change in him, felt wounded.  It is he, my having checked his markings down to his busted lower left canine tooth.  His eyes are the same, and before I checked that tooth I thought that if it isn’t Dad, then surely it’s his daddy.  Dad’s hips poke out, he seems to squint with his right eye, there is a dark patch on his left face and there are new dark eraser sized markings on his forehead and on the sides of his face.  He is looking like a beat up old coyote.  Yet even so, he’s still got game and I’m hoping he still has his health.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Mom’s Mistake, by Charles Wood

In Los Angeles county this week I saw Mom a few times and also a couple of the yearlings.  Thursday Mom came under the bridge headed south into her field, having come from the nature preserve.  She paused when she heard my camera’s shutter.  It took her about a minute to go hide and watch.  The nape of her neck:  looks like mange, something I haven’t seen on her before.

Tonight, Saturday, she was headed in the opposite direction, coming from the south headed north toward the nature preserve.  Alerted, she stopped to hide and watch.  My friend Lynne was with me.  When Mom hid I knew the show was over because Mom sits and watches for as long as I stay.  So I left for the car.  Lynne followed initially and then stopped as I continued toward the car.  The show wasn’t over, though it took me leaving to get Mom to move again.  Mom headed for the bridge to pass north into the nature preserve, yet she didn’t because Mom finally saw Lynne hadn’t continued to follow me.  Consequently, Mom walked towards Lynne and then stopped to stare at her, a chain link fence between them and separated by about sixty feet.  Lynne left and presumably Mom went into the nature preserve.

That was the first time I have been aware of Mom making a mistake.  Apparently she thought bothhumans had left, freeing her to resume her walk north.  Nevertheless, Mom recovered quickly from her misperception and proceeded to successfully move Lynne along.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

A Mother’s Concerns, by Charles Wood

Saturday my leashed dog Holtz and I revisited my Los Angeles area coyotes’ field, taking a shortcut back to the car.  Mom showed herself for a few moments and then crept back into the brush.  There were also teenagers in the field playing with their assault air rifles.  Although my path and theirs didn’t cross I would have liked to hear if they had coyote stories of their own to tell me.  As Holtz and I left, the kids were cavorting and shooting their air rifles blindly into the brush, putting an end to my bird and coyote watching.  There were many ears and eyes following those kids, all on the move away from them.  If the kids decided to actually hunt they would have had trouble finding anything to shoot.  Like Holtz, they lack stealth.

Earlier in the week I showed a photo of Mom to my veterinarian who confirmed Mom’s ear was infected or had mites, was a source of discomfort, and would eventually develop into cauliflower ear.  Another concern is that this year, the brush in their field is being cut more frequently.  In early December the brush was recovering from its earlier mowing, yet in mid-December the brush was mowed yet again.  Last June, most of the field was a diverse puppy training ground and a small yet thriving ecosystem.  That messy and dull looking area is quite different from both the neighboring golf course and public park.   The golf course and park seem as deserts when compared to dull brush.  Fortunately we also have a protected 100 acre nature center area that supports an assortment of living things providing each for the other, coyotes and hawks included.

I wonder what, if anything, could or should be done for Mom’s ear.  I’ve learned from Janet’s blog that removing a coyote from its environ for treatment is a significant disruption of the group.  Her two youngsters, neither yet a year old, still depend on her maturity and skills.  Another consideration is that she is or will soon be in season.  Holtz has had otitis caught early and the treatment was to irrigate his ears with Betadine followed by daily applications of ointment to his ear canal with oral antibiotics twice a day over a two week period.  With Mom, she probably has damage to or a collapse of the ear canal and a cursory web search of the topic suggests treatment at this stage is more complex with no certainty of a successful outcome.  Even were resources available to provide treatment, intervening might do more harm than good.

I don’t like that answer.  Mom has grown to dislike me just as much as I have grown to love her.  I do feel her jobs are of more concern to her than is the discomfort from her ear.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos:Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Two Eyes, One Eye, No Eyes!

These photos made a nice series: two eyes, one eye, no eyes! Small children play this game, though they use their hands to cover their eyes. In truth, there is more going one here: the right eye of this coyote has been infected for some time and most of the time appears smaller than the other with small amounts of secretions. Ailments are common in wild animals.


Zooming into one of my photos allowed me to see the sores and bugs that inhabit a coyote’s behind area. There are some ticks and some red, wettish skin which looks like it has been scratched and licked. Too bad a paw can’t reach this area for scratching. What ends up happening is that the coyote bites at it to help reduce its distress.

I’ve seen coyotes practically trip over themselves in their need to take care of the “itch” on their behinds right away — it must be an intense annoyance. Intense scratching and scooting are signs of intestinal parasites.

Coyotes Sneeze

Yesterday and today I heard a coyote sneeze, three times in a row. It is a gentle sneeze with a little and soft expulsion of air — almost sweet sounding! I wondered if the coyote might have allergies, or if it might have caught a cold?

Self-Medication? Scat Left On A Path: A Message?

I watched this coyote poop only a few paces before it stopped to sniff. It sniffed at the base of a tree and then at a spot on the ground close to the tree. The spot close to the tree was the greater attraction. The coyote remained sniffing here and then began to lower itself onto the spot to “roll” or “wallow” on it. The coyote only went so far as to lower its head sideways onto the spot when it changed its mind. Instead, it walked a few paces forwards and pooped, again, within a few inches of the spot it had been smelling — close enough to be called “on” it. Then it walked on. I was able to see that the coyote had sniffed a three-inch piece of cooked fish with the bone intact. How this got to the path I don’t know: we have both raccoons and coyotes who could have removed it from a patio meal plate left out, or from a garbage can.

So, after having been attracted to the fish’s strong scent, the coyote began to roll on it, but then decided to poop on it instead. Hmmm — two things, probably separate things, were going on here: rolling on something had its own purpose; and pooping right here had another — maybe?

1) Was the pooping a form of marking, of leaving a message? The coyote had just pooped a few paces earlier, with me behind on the coyote’s path. I’ve observed this same situation a couple of times before. It pooped only a few paces after the first pile: was the poop saved purposefully, like skunk scent, to be used when needed?  Was this at all related to the “rolling on the fish”?

2) Could rolling on something, such as the fish, constitute “marking IT” — the coyote leaving its own scent there, a sort of “trumping” what was already there, the same as when a coyote marks over dog poop or urine it has found? Or, as I have written before, was the coyote trying to “perfume” itself, either for the fun of it or as some kind of “disguise”? OR, and this is my new idea, is there some kind of self-medication involved in rolling on specific items — the same way we humans use ointments? Might rolling in dead smelly stuff ward off skin mites? This coyote does have patches of fur loss. Mange is a common ailment of coyotes, and can actually kill them, though I don’t know if this particular coyote is afflicted specifically with mange.

A hypothesis: I’ve gone to the Internet to find that some of the skin “treatments” for mange include apple cider vinegar or borax or a borax/hydrogen peroxide combination or even neem oil with its sulfur smelling properties. I tried to figure out what these might have in common with the smelly things I have seen a coyote rub itself on: dead lizard, dead snake, dead mole, rancid fish, and with horse manure and fish-emulsion used as fertilizer which I’ve seen dogs rub themselves in. It appears that the dead animals were left in their locations specifically to be wallowed on over and over again. Decomposition produces gases and acids. Might the mites responsible for mange be warded off by the byproducts of decomposing tissue? Or might the Ph level of these byproducts be soothing to mite-infested skin? I’m wondering if these byproducts of decomposition have some of the same properties as apple cider vinegar or borax or neem oil? I’m not a chemist or biochemist. This is just a thought I had. Feedback is welcome!

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