Case Studies

Case Study 9 - Coyote caught in a Trap

1 - Admission

Warning: This case study contains graphic images of this animal's wounds which may offend some viewers.

This male coyote was spotted limping through yards in St. Anthony, Minn., with a leg-hold trap on its front left leg. Catching a healthy, mobile coyote is near impossible but DNR Conservation Officer Brad J. was able to catchpole the coyote, bringing him to WRC for treatment. In this photo, Brad and WRC Wildlife Vet Renee Schott are removing the trap from the coyote's leg while it's under anesthesia.

2 - Preparation for surgery

After flushing the wound area, the first thing Vet Renee does is shave the area so she can see the entire wound as well as the tissue surrounding the wound. Whenever tissue has been constricted for an extended period we become concerned for the integrity of both the tissues and the nerves, due to loss of blood flow.

3 - A Closer Look

With the coyote under anesthesia, our staff is able to safely handle it without causing undo stress and pain to the coyote. After moving the coyote to our radiology department, CVT Addie Evans draws blood. Examining an animal's blood can tell us lots about the overall health of the animal. The coyote's blood results look good - its white blood cells aren't incredibly elevated (elevated white blood cells will indicate infections, diseases, etc.) .

4 - Wound detail

Here's a look at the actual wound. From the initial glance it doesn't look too bad, but the pressure from the trap has caused blood flow restriction, or even loss, to the paw. You can see the deep indentations in the tissue. So, while the surface level damage doesn't look too bad, there may be much more damage below that we're unable to see.

5 - Taking Radiographs

In this image, CVT Addie is carefully positioning the coyote's paw on the radiology table.

6 - Radiographs

We're relieved to find no fractures on the radiographs. Bones exposed to pressure can crush, making rehabilitation impossible. We're somewhat hopeful for the coyote's recovery, but concerned about possible nerve damage or necrosis to the paw due to loss of blood flow. On the radiograph you can see a dark line running perpendicular to the paw. On a healthy animal, that line wouldn't appear. It's a result of the tissues being crushed.

Warning! The next slide contains graphic imagery of this animal's wounds that may offend some viewers.

7 - Necrosis

Just three days later and despite all our efforts, necrosis has set in. The paw is dead and decaying due to the extended period of blood loss. Sometimes these things can take more than a week to develop, sometimes they happen quickly like this. It's heartbreaking for our staff to see - it means the coyote cannot be rehabilitated.

If you flip from this photo back to the initial close-up of the wound you'll be shocked to see the quick progression of necrosis. The next image shows the underside of the paw/leg, where the necrosis is much worse. Feel free to skip that photo if you'd like - it documents the amount of damage that is created by loss of blood to living tissues and bone.

Vet Renee had the tough job of humanely euthanizing the coyote while it was under anesthesia. One of the toughest aspects of wildlife medicine.

Warning: The next slide also contains graphic imagery of this animal's wound which may offend some viewers.

8 - Further necrosis

The prior photo showed the necrosis that has occurred on the top part of the coyote's paw. What it didn't show was the fact that the necrosis is 360 degrees. There is no living tissue at all around the paw and the bone has already begun to decay. At this stage, healing cannot occur. Humanely euthanizing the coyote to end his painful suffering was unfortunately the best option.

Other Case Studies

  • Case Study 1 - Healing a Heron
  • Case Study 2 - Kingfisher with a Luxation
  • Case Study 3 - Rehabilitating a Gunshot Swan
  • Case Study 4 - An Injured Sandhill Crane
  • Case Study 5 - One Lucky Duck
  • Case Study 6 - Treating a Blanding's Turtle
  • Case Study 7 - A Surprising Find in a Juvenile Herring Gull
  • Case Study 8 - Hook, Line and Sinker - Spiny Softshell Turtle
  • Case Study 9 - Coyote caught in a Trap