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PO Box 1037
Lynnwood WA, 98046
PAWS Street Address:
15305 44th Ave W
Lynnwood, WA 98087
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.