PAWS Wild Again
October 2007

Kevin Mack

Field Full of Freedom
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

On June 28, a young man driving on a highway north of Wenatchee pulled over to investigate what appeared to be the lifeless body of a Coyote pup. This simple act of curiosity turned into something much more important when the man detected a slight up-an-down movement in the Coyote's chest. She was breathing, but just barely. He scooped up the injured animal and drove her to his home. There a woman named Susan, the young man's mother, entered the Coyote's life, and the steps she took next ensured that the young pup's life would continue.

Shown here 3 days after her arrival at PAWS, Coyote 07-1302 did not seem to be fully aware of her surroundings.

Susan first attempted to contact a wildlife rehabilitator in Wenatchee for help with the injured Coyote. She received a message that the rehabilitator was out of town for a month. She decided to take the Coyote to a local veterinarian, who was not licensed to rehabilitate wildlife, but was able to give the Coyote lifesaving treatment. Once she was stabilized, Susan returned home with the pup to continue her search for an appropriate facility to which she could be taken.

Susan eventually discovered PAWS, and was relieved to hear that the wildlife center would be happy to accept the Coyote for rehabilitation. On July 3, Susan made the 130-mile drive from Wenatchee to Lynnwood and the Coyote was admitted to the PAWS Wildlife Center as case #07-1302.

By the time Coyote 07-1302 was admitted to PAWS, she was awake and alert. Susan's care had pulled her through a critical time, but the pup was showing signs that she had suffered serious head trauma. She was thin and weak, and appeared dazed. She was wobbly and uncoordinated on her feet, and did not show any signs of fear in the presence of humans. Only time would tell whether or not she had suffered a permanently debilitating brain injury. She was started on a regimen of supportive care, and housed in a large enclosure in which her progress could be closely monitored. Slowly but surely, she began to show signs of improvement.

More than 2 months later, Coyote 07-1302 was extremely wary of humans and attempted to hide whenever caretakers were nearby.

Ten days after she was admitted to the center, Coyote 07-1302 was stronger and more surefooted. Her behavior was still abnormal, and an attempt was made to introduce her to another Coyote who was in care. It was hoped that both Coyotes would feel less stressed being housed with one of their own kind, and that this would help speed up 07-1302's recovery time. Unfortunately, 07-1302 did not take well to her new cagemate, and the two had to be returned to separate enclosures. Several weeks later, after spending a period of time with a clear plastic door between their two cages so they could see and smell one another, the Coyotes were reintroduced. This time, no problems arose. They were joined by a third Coyote, and all three of them seemed to get along well.

A few more weeks passed, and concern began to grow as 07-1302's behavior did not fully improve. She stood out in the open or on top of her den box when people approached her cage. Her two cagemates ran and hid as would be expected of healthy Coyotes. Just as the animal care staff was beginning to wonder if the Coyote's recovery had hit a plateau, she seemed to turn a corner. It started with her becoming visibly nervous in the presence of her caretakers and progressed until she was running around the cage, trying to climb the walls to escape from their gaze. It was as if a light bulb had come on and she suddenly remembered who and what she was- a wild animal, who was not meant to be contained.

The Coyote wasted no time exiting the carrier at her release.

On September 25, Coyote 07-1302 was in a carrier in the back of a pickup truck making the long journey back to her home east of the Cascades. Her release site was near an abandoned farm on a large piece of conservation property south of Wenatchee. The site was dominated by a dry, grassy field. A green swath of trees, shrubs and other vegetation bordered a small ravine at the far edge of the field, indicating a nearby stream channel. As the carrier was placed in the field and the sheet that had been covering it was removed, the Coyote took in the landscape that was laid out before her. She pressed her nose against the door and scratched at the wire, trying desperately to return to the world from which she had come. Susan, who had worked so hard to find help for the Coyote in her hour of need, had the honor of opening the carrier door to allow her to return to that world.

She did not stop, or even slow down before she was out of sight.

Susan opened the carrier door and took a step back. Coyote 07-1302 responded immediately. She burst out of the carrier and began to run. Her coat blended perfectly with the long dry grass through which she was moving, and at times she was nearly invisible as she made rapid progress across the field. She never stopped or even slowed down while she was within view. She did not even send a passing glance back in our direction. The rest of her life was out there ahead of her, and the Coyote was rushing to embrace it. She finished crossing the field, turned downslope toward the ravine and vanished from our sight.

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