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PAWS Mailing Address:
PO Box 1037
Lynnwood WA, 98046

PAWS Street Address:
15305 44th Ave W
Lynnwood, WA 98087

January 2007   

Kevin Mack

Running Free
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

The shock of catastrophic impact. The pain of the resulting injuries. The terror and confusion of being captured and transported. Medications, anesthesia, surgery, pain killers, confinement in foreign surroundings and constant fear and uncertainty, all for the purpose of healing. For two months she had endured what to her must have been a nightmarish ordeal. There was no possibility of convincing her otherwise. We had the means to repair her injuries, but we had no means to communicate to her that this was our intent. Even now, with a door opening in front of her and no one moving to block her escape, she still could not be entirely certain of our motives. She hesitated, but only for an instant before bursting through the open door to face whatever awaited her on the other side. The four of us watching her emerge knew exactly what awaited her; hundreds of acres of forest and fields, and the free life of a Coyote.

I really couldn't blame this Coyote for being uncertain about the motives of the humans that were holding her captive. There is absolutely nothing in most wild animals' instincts or experience to tell them that a large predator like a human may actually be trying to help them. In addition, the Coyote's injuries had been caused by a human creation, although it is hard to tell whether or not she had made that association. It is likely that all she remembered was being hit hard, thrown through the air, and being unable to run away when she landed. Although she may not have understood what had happened, the humans who found her lying injured by the roadside were able to fill in the blanks of her story quite easily. It's a story with which we are all very familiar.

It was on October 24th that the Coyote was found along a road near Olympia, and after a short stay at the South Bay Veterinary Hospital, she was transported to PAWS where she was given the patient number 06-2564. On arrival she was alert, but she was having obvious difficulty using her hind legs. After a physical examination, the Coyote was anesthetized so that she could be X-rayed. Looking at the young animal on the X-ray table, I imagined how tall she would be if she stood up. I estimated that when standing, her pelvis would be at roughly the same height as most car bumpers. I imagined her darting across the road, her body casting a long shadow in the glare of oncoming headlights. She must have nearly made it to safety. Another fraction of a second and her hindquarters would have been clear of danger. But, this story did not end with a frightening near miss. The proof of that was visible when the X-rays were developed.

During her collision with the car, the Coyote had suffered pelvic injuries including a fractured pubis and a luxation (dislocation) of the SI (sacroiliac) joint. The fracture was well-aligned, and seemed likely to heal on its own without complication. The luxation was a bit more serious, and would require surgical intervention if it was to heal correctly. The Coyote was given medication to reduce the swelling around her injuries and to alleviate her pain. She was placed in a small cage to restrict her movement while she awaited surgery.

On October 31st, the Coyote was placed in a transport carrier and driven to Veterinary Specialty Service (VCS) in Lynnwood. Dr. Steven G. Stoll of VCS performed the Coyote's surgery. The procedure involved reattaching the illium and the sacrum (the two bones connected by the SI joint) using four screws. Dr. Stoll and his team worked very efficiently. The surgery was completed in a matter of minutes and the follow-up X-rays showed excellent alignment at the repair site. The Coyote was returned to the wildlife center and placed back into a small enclosure to limit her movement while her injuries continued to heal.

A week passed, and Coyote 06-2564 graduated to a slightly larger enclosure. Her surgery site was healing well and there were no signs of infection or secondary complications. By November 14th, she was bearing full weight on her rear legs and appeared to be walking normally. She was moved into a larger outdoor enclosure in which her movement would be unrestricted. A few more weeks passed and the Coyote continued to improve. Soon she was running from staff members that entered her cage. She was able to switch directions quickly and hop over obstacles with no apparent difficulty. After allowing additional time for the hair around her surgery site to grow back, the Coyote was ready to go home.

It was overcast and sprinkling on December 21st as PAWS volunteer Kathie Roth opened the door to the Coyote's transport carrier. The gray weather did nothing to dampen our spirits as the Coyote emerged from her carrier at a run. She ran about 30 yards before glancing quickly back over her shoulder to see if she was being pursued. Kathie, PAWS wildlife volunteer manager Chris Mitchell, Heernett Foundation biologist Chanele Holbrook and I all smiled as she looked back giving us one last glimpse of her face. Seeing that she was not being followed, the Coyote looked forward once more and continued running. She was on an 800 acre wildlife preserve surrounded by thousands more acres of forest land. She was free to go wherever her nose led her and her legs could take her. She ran 20 more yards, turned to her left, jumped over a downed tree and was gone.

Coyote 06-2564 was unable to use her back legs properly at admission.

The four screws used to repair one of the Coyote's injuries are visible in this X-ray.

After surgery, the Coyote healed quickly and was placed in a large outdoor cage.

Thirty animals were returned to the wild between October 31st and December 31st, 2006. Thanks to all of you for helping to make these releases possible!

Wildlife Releases: October 31 – December 31, 2006
  • Raccoon – 1
  • American Robin – 2
  • Barred Owl – 1
  • American Crow – 1
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl – 1
  • European Starling – 2
  • Varied Thrush – 3
  • Northern Flicker – 2
  • Band-tailed Pigeon – 1
  • Rock Pigeon – 2
  • Eastern Gray Squirrel – 5
  • Song Sparrow– 1
  • Western Screech Owl – 1
  • Anna's Hummingbird – 1
  • Wood Duck – 1
  • Fox Sparrow – 1
  • Coooper's Hawk – 1
  • Virginia Opossum – 2
  • Coyote – 1

All rights reserved. 2007 Progressive Animal Welfare Society

A Northwest leader in protecting animals since 1967, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) shelters homeless animals, rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife, and empowers people to demonstrate compassion and respect for animals in their daily lives.