It’s Baby Coyote Season

2014-04-16 (4)

At this time of year, youngster coyotes are being found and taken to wildlife rehabilitation centers. Most of them need to be left where they are: coyote parents leave their youngsters for long stretches of time as they themselves go off hunting. If you see what you think is an abandoned coyote pup, leave it in place, but check on it for 24 hours. You’ll be surprised at how, in most instances, parents soon return to continue their parenting. Only after a period of 24 hours, if there is no sign of a parent, should you consider interfering in the situation.

This young pup was brought into a rehabilitation center several weeks ago. Listen to his tiny vocalizations, recorded when he was only a few days old. The photo was taken more recently  — he’s already been weaned from his formula and is growing fast!

If you would like to donate to help defray the expenses of raising this orphan, please visit the AWARE website.  They can use any contributions you are willing to make.

Back to the Wild, by Melanie Furr

Melanie Furr helps rehabilitate orphaned and injured wildlife at AWARE. Here is her first-hand story about the three orphaned coyotes which were raised and released by that organization, reprinted with permission from her site

Much of the work involved in wildlife rehabilitation isn’t interesting or glamorous. Actually, a lot of it is downright gross. I learned that fact my first week as a volunteer at AWARE wildlife center when my trainer asked me to cut up a dead rat for an injured vulture, testing my mettle for dirty work from day one. Cleaning soiled enclosures, washing dirty dishes, processing filthy laundry, and other unseemly tasks make up most of the work — essential, but hardly pleasant.

Coyote brothers on the day of their release photo: Linda Potter

Coyote brothers on the day of their release photo: Linda Potter

Feeding baby animals is gratifying, but it, too, can feel like work when trying to keep up with the demands of numerous animals requiring multiple feedings a day. But rehabilitation has numerous rewards, too. One of the greatest rewards is watching an animal return to the wild, especially when you have been closely involved in its care. I’ve had the privilege of releasing several animals back to the wild, including opossums, raccoons, turtles, geese, songbirds, and hawks, as well as squirrels I have raised (see my post Nutty for Squirrels). Each of these releases was memorable, but perhaps none more so than the long-awaited release of three young coyotes last week at dusk.

The three orphaned male coyote pups from two different litters were brought to AWARE last spring after their parents had been trapped and killed, a far too frequent occurrence. Understandably, some trappers have a harder time killing defenseless pups, so they occasionally end up in our care (such scruples from people who have been paid to kill the adults, but leave the orphans to be raised at AWARE’s expense!).

Because I have been vaccinated against rabies as a precautionary measure, I was one of a few volunteers who regularly fed and cleaned up after the three pups. Every Tuesday for seven months, I delivered their food and cleaned their enclosure (which became increasingly foul as they grew older!), so I witnessed their growth up-close.

So tiny when they were brought to AWARE as orphans! photo: ajiiiphotography.com

So tiny when they were brought to AWARE as orphans! photo: ajiiiphotography.com

Watching the pups grow from tiny, clumsy, defenseless balls of fur into sleek, wary, and powerful predators was an incredible experience. When the pups were small, I had to fight the impulse to shower them with affection, so I hated having to clap and stomp to scare them back when they occasionally became bold or inquisitive as I delivered their food. (Coyotes that approach humans too closely usually don’t come to a good end, so good rehabilitators are committed to reinforcing their natural fear of humans.)

Within a few weeks, the pups’ instinctive wariness of people overrode their curiosity. Even though I’d never done anything more than clap, they were terrified each time I approached to feed and clean, hiding or pacing frantically at the far end of their enclosure. My heart broke to see them, but I knew this fear was necessary. As the coyotes grew, seeing them living a caged life became increasingly difficult.

Although AWARE’s enclosures give the animals plenty of room to climb and move around, coyotes need to run free. Until they were full-grown and able to find food, catch prey, and defend themselves, however, releasing them would have been a death sentence. Still, even though they are now full-grown, these youngsters have been forced to strike out on their own at a much younger age than their parents would have required in the wild.

Instinctively wary of humans, the pups tried to hide whenever I approached their enclosure, even after they’d outgrown their favorite hiding place [photos Melanie Furr]

 When release day arrived, I helped corral the coyotes into a kennel, wrestling one frightened kid out from a corner, and then loaded them into the back of my minivan. (Never thought I’d count coyote wrangling among my skills!) My good friend and fellow volunteer Kelly joined me on a two hour ride to north Georgia where we had permission to release the small family on private land safe from hunters, cities, and busy roads.

Ready for release -- Good Luck boys!

Ready for release — Good Luck boys!

When we arrived, we parked near a wooded area and waited a short time for dusk to fall in order to give the coyotes the best chance to explore their surroundings without danger from humans. When the moment seemed right, we lowered the kennel to the ground and opened the door. The coyotes crowded to the back of the cage. Everything must have seemed so strange to them!

After a few minutes, I stepped up to the cage and gave it a gentle shake. One coyote dashed out like a shot and was out of sight in the blink of an eye. Twice more I had to shake the cage before the remaining two coyotes were compelled to leave, but once they stepped out, their legs carried them full speed ahead until the fading light obscured them from our view. How fascinating to imagine all the new experiences and adventures they had on that first night of freedom!

Did they seek each other out with yips and howls as night fell, or did they venture off in their own directions? What animal did they catch for their first meal? We’ll never know their fate, but we equipped them for the wild the best we could by helping them learn to recognize food sources, catch prey, and avoid humans. We wish them long, healthy lives.

Note: Like a lot of wildlife, coyotes (and foxes) generally aren’t welcome near human development, where they are frequently trapped and destroyed. Relocating these animals (without rehabilitation permits) is against the law in Georgia, and in most states, I suspect. In addition, in many states they can be hunted without restriction at any time of year, and the federal government contributes to the slaughter of tens of thousands of coyotes each year.

Efforts to control their numbers have actually only served to increase their population and expand their range, which was once limited to the western United States. Sadly, these animals are grossly misunderstood. Intelligent, adaptable, and family-oriented, coyotes provide important environmental benefits. Though urban sightings are becoming more common as wild habitats are destroyed, coyotes are naturally afraid of humans and rarely approach within thirty feet. With a few precautions, they pose little danger to people and their pets. For more information on these amazing creatures, please check out these links:

Melanie Furr: America v. the Coyote, published in AWARE Newsletter, Spring, 2013
http://www.coyoteyipps.com
http://www.coyotecoexistence.com

To learn more about AWARE or to make a tax-deductible donation to help wildlife, visithttp://www.awareone.org.

Orphaned Pups Have Been Raised and Are Being Released Tonight!

When these pups were first brought in, they were small enough to fit into a bucket!

They soon outgrew the bucket, and kept growing!!

2013-10-24

And tonight, the youngsters who are full-grown, and who have been prepared as best as possible for this moment, will be released in a safe area and slowly find their own way in the world.

“The 3 coyotes that have grown up at AWARE are being released tonight.  I wanted to go for the release, but it was going to happen at a site several hours from here, in a place that does not allow hunting, and I simply did not have the time to make the trip.  However, I fed them a special breakfast with lots of goodies and took the enclosed pictures this morning. We have done everything that we can for them and they are well prepared.  Now it is up to them.  They will be released at dusk (about now as I am writing this).  So keep them in your thoughts and say a prayer for them.  I’m sad to see them go, but delighted that they will be able to run free and not be confined in an enclosure.”

All photos from AWARE. If you would like to donate to this organization, please click here: AWARE. Thank you AWARE for taking on this big job!

** PLEASE NOTE  that any animal not raised by its own parents begins life with an overwhelming disadvantage. Coyotes are family animals. They are one of only 3-5% of all mammalian species that mate for life and grow up in nuclear families. It is within the context of a family that they learn not only their social skills, but they also learn every other skill they need for survival. Coyotes learn by observing and imitating their parents, and by interacting with their parents and their siblings, and they learn these skills during a “critical window” in their lives, when they are puppies.  Orphaned animals can never get this same training.

In addition, coyotes are “tied to the land”: Uprooting them and depositing them in another location where they don’t know the terrain, the dangers, other coyotes, predators, or even the best food locations adds additional hardship which they must overcome. How can we all help? Let’s stop the trapping and killing of coyotes so that their families may remain intact, and so that youngsters can learn the ropes of urban living from their parents, and not through trial and error and unexpected encounters with people and pets.