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Coyote Pup Survives, Despite Loss of Family

The little coyote found wandering without his family hides in his shelter at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center.

In Southern California, there is a healthy population of coyote families. It is unusual to find pups alone, and when a two-month-old coyote puppy was seen wandering aimlessly at a horse stable, observers knew something was wrong. To make matters worse, some crows, who thought the little guy was a threat to them, were attacking him. In fact, the pup was only looking for a safe place to hide when he was discovered by a ranch hand and then brought to The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Southern California. Why he was by himself at this age is unknown; normally, he would still be with his family. Had his family members been killed? In California, coyotes can be hunted for sport any day of the year and in any quantity – without any restrictions.

The center is one of just a few rehabilitation facilities in the state authorized to care for coyotes, which means that the center admits coyotes from all over Southern California. It is a tremendous responsibility, and springtime is especially busy particularly with all the coyote puppies who have been found injured, orphaned or otherwise alone.

When a pup is brought in, the center has some standard care procedures. First a history is taken so we know where the coyote was found and by whom, then a thorough physical exam is given. The pup is assessed, vaccinated and quarantined for two weeks. This can be a very lonely time for an animal who is accustomed to being surrounded by a large family unit. Coyotes are social animals and depend upon their family to learn vital skills. Hunting cooperatively with others is critical to every coyote’s survival. The quarantine is necessary to contain any contagious virus or illness from spreading and infecting the healthy animals at the center.

Insulted but Not Injured

While we will never know why this pup was not with his family unit, we did our best to care for the little three pounder. During his initial examination, this little guy was poked and prodded and generally humiliated until all he truly wanted was some peace and quiet. No physical ailments or injuries were found. We believed he had been with his family just long enough to have gained the knowledge that humans are dangerous, an important life lesson for this predator to survive in the wild.

The pup’s quarantine room was furnished with a few pine branches, a nice stuffed animal for company, some pine cone toys, food, and water. As soon as he was placed in the room, he began gathering his toys, his food, his stuffed animals and his pine branches and taking them all to his shelter, a sure sign that he wanted nothing to do with humans. This behavior is a good indicator that an orphaned coyote pup will make it through the quarantine period without imprinting on humans and if healthy, will be able to be successfully released to the wild. He ate his diet of mice and fruit readily.

After his quarantine period, the fortunate puppy will join the other eleven coyote pups in our large outdoor habitat. This group will form a strong family unit over the coming months, and come October or November, these dozen pups will be released into the wild where they belong.

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Posted July 5, 2007