|CAPE WILDLIFE CENTER @2006|
Coyote pups relax together at the Cape Wildlife Center.
“Orphaned coyote pups may seem little different from puppies, and the idea of keeping one as a pet can be hard to resist.” This quote from the free (email us if you’d like a copy) Humane Society of the United States pamphlet, Coyotes: Living in Harmony with Your Wild Neighbors, pertinently describes the Cape Wildlife Center’s recent work.
In early April, a center volunteer, who happens to be an animal control officer in Hull, Massachusetts, visited a neighboring town’s animal control offices and was shown a beautiful litter of pups. The pups had been found on the doorstep of the shelter. Two weeks old at the time of their abandonment, the pups didn’t even have their eyes open yet. The volunteer acknowledged that the animals were indeed beautiful but informed the shelter they were not puppies—they were baby coyotes. So, three healthy female coyote pups came to the center to grow up.
Caring for coyotes is a difficult balancing act. They need to be fed and their living quarters cleaned, but their contact with people must be restricted. Coyotes can quickly become accustomed to the sights and sounds of humans; they lose their natural fear and begin to accept people as a source of food. In order to assure that the pups would be able to be released back into the wild, the center staff needed to limit contact, and only two people were assigned the care and feeding of the coyotes.
In June, another coyote pup was brought to the center. The two month old, male coyote pup had been found and taken in by a man in Framingham, Massachusetts, and had lived in his rescuer’s house for a week. He arrived at the center totally focused on people. He wagged his tail and licked the staff during his intake examination and any time he saw a person. He was healthy and acted like a domesticated dog.
Why was he brought to the center after a week when it seemed that he might have been kept as a pet by his rescuer? The answer became apparent that first evening at mealtime. He was very food aggressive; the clinic staff needed to use caution when handling him around food.
After his initial screening and treatment for roundworm, he was introduced to the older coyotes in hopes of him bonding with the three females The next few days were particularly difficult for staff as there was one unhappy coyote pup who was not afraid to express himself. He cried for hours, stopping only from exhaustion or when someone came to feed and clean the enclosure. Then he clung to the pant legs of the staff person and even tried to climb up their legs to be held. He cried for days—it was heartbreaking to hear him and know no one could go and comfort him. It was a difficult but necessary process to break him of his dependence on human companionship.
It worked! The little guy was accepted into the pack. The pack is led by an alpha female, who has been in control right from the beginning.
Fully independent at nine months, the the four juvenile coyotes are going to be released this month. An early fall return to the wild will allow them to acclimate to the area and identify food sources before the winter sets in. The area of release has been coordinated with Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife, but for the safety of the animals, the exact location and date is not being disclosed. The coyotes will be released in a natural area to give them a good head start and minimize their chances of interacting with people.
The staff of the Cape Wildlife Center has strong emotions concerning the young pack, who have overcome abandonment as puppies to become mature coyotes. Coyotes are beautiful, intelligent animals. They have shown their species’ ability to adapt and flourish in spite of human interference. This most persecuted species of animal deserves to be valued as a natural part of the world they share with people. We are ecstatic to have given these youngsters the freedom to live, thrive, and howl in the night.
Click here to watch the two and a half minute video on Windows Media. Click here to play the video on Real Neworks.
Posted September 26, 2006