Coyote Pups

Look who came to Wildwoods last week … a little “song dog” pup (aka coyote)! He was found by himself when he was about 3-4 weeks old, and has been raised by humans since. As a result, he is very human-habituated. Dr. Deb, who cares for and releases any coyotes we get, does not think he will “wild up,” and has determined that he is non-releasable because of his extreme comfort around humans. (P.S. — despite this, he would never make a good “pet”; wild animals don’t adapt well to being “pets,” and it’s unfair (and illegal) to ask that of them.)

Fortunately, there are wildlife programs who would love to have a coyote like him to serve as ambassadors for coyotes everywhere. These education animals teach the public about coyotes and the valuable role they play in our ecosystems. They teach that coyotes are not evil villains to be feared and hated, but beneficial native predators. Ambassadors for species that are vilfied, like coyotes and porcupines, can make a big difference in how people view their kind!

We found this little guy a place in a program like that, where he will have a great life while educating people. Programs like this often bond the coyote not only to people, but to a dog the same age and size, if there are not other coyotes for him to be with. That way, he’ll never be lonely. He will also have as much human interaction as he wants (right now, he loves it; he sees humans as his “pack”).

Want to learn more about these inquisitive, social, intelligent survivors? Check out “God’s Dog: A Celebration of the North American Coyote”. It’s a wonderful read!

We’ve been spending a lot of time with the coyote pup since he arrived. It’s interesting to see the many similarities he shares with domestic dogs, as well as the ways in which he differs from them.

His body language seems pretty much the same as a domestic dog’s–tail-wagging in greeting, bowing to invite us to play with him, face-licking, smiling, rolling on his back submissively, or deferentially licking his lips.

Though he is very socialized to people, his primary focus (unlike a dog) is not people. I remember, years ago, taking my dog for a walk when she was a puppy. Though she was certainly very interested in the world around us, she primarily watched me.

In contrast, this little guy’s attention is everywhere–every sight, sound, and smell totally compels his attention as it occurs, and his large ears swivel like radar dishes, missing nothing.

He’s been living indoors before coming here, and so all of these outdoor stimuli are new to him. At first, he was overwhelmed and fearful, but now he’s increasingly interested in everything.

He seems instinctively afraid of open spaces. When we walk in the yard, he hugs the underbrush-y edges, slinking along under the bracken and ferns, and feeling safe only when he is covered up and unseen.

Though he has a mild interest in dog toys, he seems to know that they are pale substitutes for what he is really meant to be chasing, catching (and killing)–mice, rabbits, etc. So a squeaky, bouncy ball has transient interest for him, at best.

When he has more food than he can eat, he instinctively knows how to cache it for later, and carefully covers it with folds of his blanket.

We see all of these instinctive, hard-wired behaviors, as well as his increasing delight and fascination with the outdoors, and we mourn that he cannot have the wild life for which he was created.

We are very grateful for the education program to which he is going, for they will do their best to give him a good life filled with stimulation, enrichment, and companionship.

During his life there, we hope that he will teach many people that coyotes are not evil, or to be hated or feared, but intelligent opportunists, to be planned for and worked around. As humans, we must use our own ingenuity and creativity to find ways to exclude coyotes and other predators from interacting with and harming livestock and pets, while leaving them free to do their valuable jobs in our ecosystems. These “God’s Dogs” — intelligent, opportunistic survivors, deserve our respect and admiration rather than our hatred and violence.

To learn more about these amazing creatures, check out the book “God’s Dog: A Celebration of the North American Coyote” by Hope Ryden.

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about 10 years ago

Very interesting.  Thanks for the education (and adorable picture).  I'd be interested to know at what age a semi-domesticated pup starts to gravitate and hold onto its "wild" instincts more and more.


about 10 years ago

Really sweet post, thank you for all that you guys do!

[email protected]

about 10 years ago

Hi, Rae -- I am not sure about the timing in coyotes (this is the first I have seen), but Peggy, who runs our Facebook page, probably knows.  Would you be willing to post there for an answer?

In the squirrels and raccoons we see so often, it's between 8 and 12 weeks, I think -- you can tell the moment it happens because they go from eagerly taking the food from their friendly caretaker to snatching food and running away, getting away from the human whose touch they used to welcome.

A beginning volunteer is saddened by this, but in the end, we know that it's best for the animals if they learn to avoid people.


about 10 years ago

It's interesting to me that a siberian husky is so obviously genetically closer to its wild ancestors than most dogs. All those descriptions of the coyote pup: more interested in "out there" than me, meh about toys but woot! about chipmunks, and being very careful with meat she doesn't want to eat right away... a husky is definitely not for those who want a loyal companion who never leaves their side. (Which would be why labs are so popular. I wish people who love the husky "look" and go adopt them would do their research.)

[email protected]

about 10 years ago

Critter updates (some happy, some sad; sad ones at the end, plus various pleadings--cats indoors; no cow milk to critters, no lead ammo or tackle!):

Yoti the coyote is doing great, and getting lots of playtime with volunteers and with Shawna's gentle giant of a dog Mabel. Just like the trickster coyote of legends, Yoti is mischievous. A few days ago, he hid Ian's shoes. And yesterday, as Farzad was bending down, Yoti snatched off Farzad's hat and took it away to chew (now one of his favorite toys). 

When Yoti and Mabel play, Yoti prefers the "stalk and ambush" style of play. He cannot resist the huge, proud (and powerful) plume of Mabel's tail, which almost knocked him over the first time he encountered it. Perhaps he does the stalk and ambush technique because Mabel is huge, and he's a bit intimidated by a dog the size of a pony. So he hides behind something, then slips around behind her, ambushes her, and hides again. Goodnatured Mabel just smiles and wags. 

We have a raft of young robins at the moment, and most are fledged and learning to forage. The most recent arrival came in yesterday, rescued from the jaws of a cat. Though we started him on antibiotics immediately, he's now very hot and lethargic, and we don't expect him to make it. Remember, just one tiny tooth puncture from a cat is enough to kill most wild animals, regardless of their size. We haven't had one cat-attacked animal survive this year, despite antibiotics, and despite the fact that none had visible injuries. Please--for the sake of wildlife and for the sake of cats (indoor cats live far longer, on average), keep your cats indoors. Thanks!

The flickers have fledged, but are still not foraging. We put them outside in a portable enclosure placed over an anthill, as flickers eat a lot of ants. One flicker was interested and ate a few. He also took a nice dust bath! The other was a bit freaked out by the outdoors. If the weather is nice, we'll try again tomorrow. 

Two more young mice are on deck for release.

We have a few baby squirrels (red, grey, and Franklin's). The juveniles have all graduated.

We got 4 more baby raccoons yesterday, and Matt and Regina are now full (36 raccoons, if you can imagine that!). So these 4 plus the 2 who came in a few days ago are with us for the summer and early fall. They're all doing well so far. 

We got a call from folks up in Brookston who found 2 little merganser ducklings under their boat, with no sign of mom or siblings. We asked them to get a feather duster for the babies to snuggle under, and to give them wax worms and mealworms. Well, they didn't have a feather duster, but they did have a pink feather boa, which the little ducks loved. We've got the ducklings now, and are on the lookout for a merganser family for them to join. Anyone?

We also got a GINORMOUS snapping turtle who was hit by a car, but is not in too bad of shape. We would like to send her to WRC for repair. 

6 baby bunnies today! We got 1 baby bunny who was brought in by a family dog, and then fed cow milk (an almost certain death sentence). 4 more baby bunnies were brought in by a baby sitter, who found them in the care of the kids she was baby-sitting. Amazingly, they are in ok shape. And one was found in the middle of the road, possibly dropped by a crow. Please never feed cow milk to anything except calves and kids. Cow milk for anyone else almost always causes fatal diarrhea. 

We finally got the loon we posted about a few days ago. He's is not acting normally, but not terrible. Maybe he has a mild case of lead poisoning, but despite that, he ate 4 dozen minnows! We are still looking for a ride to the Cities for him and for the snapper. Anyone?

And speaking of the evils of lead, we got an update on the lead-poisoned mature eagle from Hibbing that we sent south 2 weeks ago. Not only did he have lead poisoning; he also had a terrible joint infection in one of his legs. The Raptor Center had no choice but euthanasia. Lead is not only poison, but also depresses the immune system. Please urge all family members who fish or hunt to use only non-lead tackle and non-lead ammo. You'll be saving the lives of loons, eagles, and trumpeter swans. Also, your family won't be ingesting tiny lead fragments from ammo that gets in the meat, and is too small to sense. Lead is poison. Please, for everyone's sake, don't use it. Thanks!!

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Lori Gregerson

about 10 years ago

Thank you for not calling animal control in Texas where they shoot first and ask questions later. 

Tests show euthanized coyote pup didn't have rabies

[email protected]

about 10 years ago

Today, Yoti hops a plane for the coast, and we say good bye. Yoti is a coyote pup raised around people since he was 3-4 weeks old. Though he can never be released to the wild, he has a big job to do. Yoti will serve as an ambassador for his species at the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, Massachusetts. There, Yoti will help people learn that coyotes have a place in our world.

In our dog-loving culture, we look down on places where dogs are food, or where strays are despised, rounded up, and killed. Yet, in the US, it's open season on coyotes year 'round, and wolves are now trophy animals to be trapped and shot.

Here is Yoti, playing with Pat. Do you see an animal to hate or fear? Do you see a being without worth, who deserves to suffer and die in a snare, or linger miserable and terrified in a foothold trap until bludgeoned or shot?

Yoti runs and plays, he mock-growls in a game of tug-of-war with you, he loves a good belly scratch. When we watch Yoti, we see an animal not much different from our two beloved dogs. Who do you see?

Are we recommending coyotes replace golden retrievers as family pets? Certainly not. Yoti is a wild animal, deserving our respect, always with his natural instincts and wild personality.

But Yoti and his kind have a place and a purpose in our world. Thank you, Yoti, for helping us re-learn that lesson. Farewell, and good luck in your new life!


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