Sweetbriar Nature Center's wildlife care coordinator, Isabel Fernandes, gives an update on the injured coyote caught last week in Queens. Fernandez says once the coyote is healed, the goal is to release it to a familiar place. Credit: Newsday staff

The hurt coyote caught last week in Queens is “confused as to why he is in captivity” yet appears to be recovering while chomping on toys and food most dogs would recognize, though possibly not all the special delights — eggs, bugs, and as his rescuers hasten to add, mice and chicks, all dead.

“The coyote is definitely feeling better,” being treated with pain medicine and anti-inflammatories, hidden in a mouse, for its broken hip and pelvis, Janine Bendicksen, director of wildlife rehabilitation at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, said by email.

Explaining why rehabilitation requires considerable expertise and is not for the easily daunted, she continued: “He’s a beautiful boy but he lets us know he’s a wild animal.”

The coyote has been named "Will E. ", a play on the Looney Tunes character, according to a Facebook post by its rescuers in the 105th Precinct in Queens Village.

To ensure the coyote remains wary of people, caretakers avoid contact.

“The public cannot visit and we put his food through a small hatch door,” Bendicksen said.

The ease with which the coyote was caught, experts said, suggests he was ailing, as healthy coyotes prefer to avoid people and favor nighttime pursuits.

Springtime is when youngsters of many species, including coyotes, set out to hunt for mates and homes of their own.

The coyotes recently spotted in this metropolitan area are infiltrators: No mention is made of them, not even in the “vanished recent mammals” or the “missing land mammals” categories in naturalist’s Paul F. Connor’s authoritative 1971 work, “Mammals of Long Island.” Once abundant wolves, bears and possibly even mountain lions were recorded through the Colonial era, before hunters, trappers and farmers wiped them out. 

“In fact, the movement of coyotes into the Northeast did not occur until after they began hybridizing with wolves about 154-190 years ago,” according to a 2014 study..

How coyotes got to Long Island

The coyotes in the eastern United States likely roved south from Canada's Great Lakes, where they likely mated with gray wolves; now they share nearly 10% of their DNA with dogs, the study says. 

For the past few years, coyotes have been seen on golf courses and farms on the South and North Forks, possibly having swum across from Connecticut or New York via islands in the Sound.

Or even, as Sweetbriar's wildlife care coordinator Isabel Fernandez said, they may have traveled along quiet train tracks at night.

Wildlife biologists hope their numbers grow and eventually reduce Long Island's deer herds — and thus help control ticks. Coyotes probably are too small to take down an adult deer, instead preying on fawns and other small animals.

This coyote’s fractures may have occurred a few weeks ago. "It's already on the mend," said Fernandez.

"Coyotes are notorious for healing pretty easily," she continued, explaining that when injured, like most wildlife, they may hide until they regain their strength.

“Veterinarians really don’t know if he is going to heal," said Bendicksen, "but they are hopeful.”

Recovering from such injuries often requires time and rest — which means keeping the coyote confined.

In three weeks, another set of radiographs will be taken, which should help the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation determine if it can be freed, possibly to New Hyde Park. 

“My guess is that if the radiographs are positive and he looks like he’s healing on his own, this boy will be released within a few weeks,” she said, possibly with a tracking device, if the DEC opts for one. The department was not immediately available to comment.

Loss of appetite does not appear to trouble the Queens coyote.

“He eats anything we give him,” starting with a mix of wet and dry dog food, Bendicksen said.

And a bit of vigorous play helps pass the time — and keep those wild instincts from fraying.

He also “rips apart dog toys and likes to chew on bully sticks," Bendicksen said.

Experts caution coyotes are quite shy of people; anyone who finds one in their yard can try to scare it off, by clapping or yelling, said Fernandez.

If it seems injured or ill, "just call the local police department, call somebody at the local animal shelter," she said. "Just be safe and don't try to approach that animal."

If unsure whether it is a dog or a coyote, check out its tail, which should hang straight down — and only coyotes have a black spot at the spine's base.

"These wildlife don't want to attack people's dogs and cats; that's going to be their last option for food," said Fernandez. 

She urged pet owners to keep their pets leashed or under observation. "We have to learn to live with the animals in nature that we have, and appreciate what's out here on the Island."

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