One cold, rainy Sunday
earlier this spring, I was home nursing a pounding sinus headache when
our local dog warden called. "I hate to bother you Mike, but I've
been wrestling with an emotional dilemma." He continued to explain
that he had responded the day before to a call of 3 domestic puppies
that someone apparently had dumped in a field. After arriving on
location he found what appeared to be 3 German Shepherd puppies just
barely old enough to crawl. He took them to the town veterinarian who
informed him that they were not domestic pups, but baby coyotes. Our dog
warden quickly contacted the D.E.C. and was told to return them where he
had found them. He did as he was instructed.
"The reason I'm
calling Mike, is that these pups are probably out there in that cold
rain since yesterday, and I don't know if their mother will find them,
or if she is even around." He went on to say that he couldn't even
sleep, because he was so worried about them. Of course my response was,
"Take me there!" He gave me directions and I met him on
location. It seemed like we walked forever through the frigid rain. The
site was so wet that the cold thick mud clung to our boots adding extra
weight with each step. The area was an enormous, semi-flooded field with
an occasional small rise covered in sparse scrub vegetation. We finally
arrived at a point when he said, "This is where I left them,
they're not here!" My first thought was, "Good, maybe Mom came
and got them." That thought was immediately replaced by the dog
warden's voice saying, "Oh-no here’s one, I think it's
dead!" The pup was so drenched and covered with mud that it
completely blended in with the ground, and looked as though someone had
deliberately encased it with mud. I immediately picked up the literally
frozen stiff little animal, peeled back my three layers of clothes and
sandwiched it between my stomach and fabric. Body heat was the only
available heat source. Within seconds, I could feel the slightest
movement. "He's not dead!" I shouted as I visually scanned the
area for its other siblings. Since time was crucial to save this one,
and we could not quickly locate any of the others, I decided to take the
one we had back to my house as quickly as possible. By the time I
arrived home, the pup had become a bit squirmier and was vocalizing
While I attended to the
pup, Noreen rounded up a Messinger Woods search and rescue crew. It was
not long before our rescue team of six people, was searching the area
for the others. Within 15 minutes, a young female was found. It was in
slightly worse condition than the first, but still alive. It was towel
dried on site and placed on body heat. A third was discovered under
water in a flooded area. Due to the tendency of ice water delaying
drowning, we retrieved it and attempted to revive it. The search
continued while these two "mud puppies" were rushed back to my
house. After hours of heat, warm I.V. fluid therapy, and vigorous
massage, the first two dehydrated and hypothermic pups rallied nicely.
Unfortunately, the one found under water could not be revived, and no
others were found.
What ever had happened to
their mother could not be confirmed. During the search, a den was
discovered. Nearby some spent shotgun shells were also found, but that
alone could not be conclusive of what had actually happened to her. One
more search was launched on the following day with negative results. For
the next several weeks, this young brother and sister team were cared
for by me, Noreen, and other visiting Messinger Woods volunteers. Care
included bottle feedings every two hours around the clock, and daily
removal of ticks. Once the pups were weaned, it was decided that they be
transferred to Elise Able, Director of Foxwood Wildlife and Rescue.
Elise is also a member of Messinger Woods and specializes in the
rehabilitation of Canids. She is an expert on fox and coyote and has a
facility designed exclusively for their care.
We are happy to report
that the coyote's "Poncho & Cisco", are doing very well. After consultation with many
experts, it was decided that they would be wintered over and released
next spring in a carefully chosen remote area. There are probably some
people who would find disfavor with our attempts to save them, since
coyote are not everyone’s favorite species. As licensed wildlife
rehabilitators, we provide this function without discrimination of
species. Our web of life has a specific role or ecological niche for all
indigenous life forms. All species are interrelated.
Coyote (Canis latrans) is
admired by some and loathed by others. They are one of the more clever
mammals of North America and are in the Canid, (dog) family. In the
west, history documents mass attempts at their eradication. Only due to
their intelligence have they rebounded and spread eastward. Today, NY
State has an ever increasing healthy population of coyote. They can be
found in rural, as well as some urban areas throughout NY State. They
are very elusive, secretive, and for the most part, a harmless animal.
DNA from some of our Western New York coyotes indicates that at some
point they may have bred with Algonquin wolves. This might explain the
larger size of our coyotes from those of out west. According to studies
done on fecal droppings and stomach contents, the majority of their
diets consist of small rodents and other small mammals and birds.
Mainly, they eat mice, voles, moles, and rabbits. They also eat
vegetation, fruit and insects. They will occasionally feed on deer. Most
often they will feed on deer carcasses resulting from car accidents, or
It is speculated that the
growth in the coyote population may be nature's way of reintroducing a
natural predator. This would control our ever increasing deer
population, which is obvious through the increased vehicle/deer
collisions. Wolves were once the natural predators of deer. Since
eradication and booming development have all but eliminated the wolf
from its natural ranges, deer have had no natural enemies to keep their
numbers under control. Human management systems are no match for natural
predators. A big concern of the general public, is, will coyotes eat
domestic animals, livestock, or carry off little children? According to
the August 2000 issue of the New York State Conservationist magazine,
there are some documented accounts of coyote in New York conflicting
with small or young livestock, and domestic pets. During the January
through May denning season they can exhibit territorial aggression
toward domestic dogs. The article also suggests that domestic cats could
become a potential prey species.
As for attacks on people?
There can never be any guarantees with any animals, wild or otherwise.
The fact is though, that there are far more human attacks documented
from domestic dogs than wildlife overall. I have some experience
rehabilitating injured adult coyotes. What I witnessed each time I
entered the compound was a beautiful, timid animal cowering in a corner.
I never saw an aggressive display or threatening demeanor. Anyone
wishing to learn more about this species need only visit their local
library for books and videos, or surf the internet. There is a vast
resource of information available on this frequently researched species.
Whatever your opinion may be, I feel that coyotes are a handsome and
cunning animal. They are a surviving species that play an important role
in our ecosystems and strike a chord in the hearts and minds of we
humans. To many of us, they are a part of that mystique of the
wilderness. The fact that our natural world can be as close as our own
backyards, is no fault of the coyote or any other species. It is merely
a result of our ever-expanding urbanization.
© Copyright 2000
Messinger Woods Wildlife Care & Education Center, Inc.
This species profile is
copyrighted and may only be reprinted with the express permission of
Messinger Woods Wildlife Care & Education Center, Inc.