Manitoba

'Famous coyote patient' returns to wild after driver who thought he'd hit a dog picked it up

A coyote that garnered international attention after a man accidentally hit it with his car and picked it up, thinking it was a dog, has returned to the wild.

Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre frees fully recovered coyote 1 month after taking it in

A coyote that was picked up and delivered to Manitoba's Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre after being hit by a car and knocked unconscious has been released to the wild. (Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre/Facebook)

A coyote that regained consciousness in a car, after a Manitoba driver hit what he thought was a dog and put it in his vehicle, is back in the wild.

It took a month of tender, loving care at the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre for the wild animal to return to health, regain its reflexes and exhibit normal coyote behaviours, the centre's executive director said.

"It was time to release our famous coyote patient back to the wild," said Zoé Nakata.

On his way to work a night shift, Eli Boroditsky was driving 90 km/h on the highway around 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 27 when an animal suddenly jumped in front of his vehicle. 

Thinking it was a dog, he picked up the knocked-out creature, put it in the back of his car and continued on his way to Bothwell Cheese in New Bothwell, Man., about 40 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

"It is amazing how docile it was. I was petting it," Boroditsky said at the time.

When Boroditsky arrived at work, another man recognized it as a coyote, he said.

They tried calling local conservation officers and rehab centres, but were told to call back in the morning. A Manitoba Conservation officer came by after 9 a.m. and delivered the coyote to Wildlife Haven, located in nearby Ile des Chênes.

The nocturnal mammal didn't have any broken bones, but it did have a few cuts: one on its face and another on its rear legs, likely from the impact of the collision, staff at the centre said.

For the next month, a volunteer care team kept a close eye on the animal's progress. Volunteers assessed the coyote's injuries, came up with treatment and nutrition plans, and used special techniques and tools to try to keep it wild.

"You get emotionally involved with these patients," Nakata said.

To limit human interaction and to avoid stressing the animal out, they usually observed the coyote using trail cameras set up in its temporary shelter at the centre.

Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre staff used a trail camera keep watch on the coyote's recovery while minimizing human contact with it. (Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre/Facebook)

During the recovery process, the care team analyzed the animal's behaviour to see whether it still acted like a regular coyote, in terms of ability to hunt and to evade threats in the wild.

Volunteers also worked with conservation workers to locate a proper release spot in its natural habitat.

They went back to the area where the coyote was hit, opened the crate and watched it return to an open field on Dec. 27 — one month after the collision.

"She did really well," Nakata said. "She takes a few moments to get her bearings."

Watch the fully recovered coyote return to the wild:

A coyote that garnered international attention after a man accidentally hit it with his car, picked it up thinking it was a dog and took it to the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre for tender loving care has returned to the wild. Video courtesy: Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre. 0:26

The release was a rewarding experience for the small volunteer crew, Nakata said. "It's such a beautiful sight," she said.

The coyote became a media darling, garnering international attention, with stories published by CNN and the Washington Post.

Nakata advises anyone who comes across a hurt or unconscious animal to "keep yourself safe." She suggests immediately contacting Manitoba Conservation or Wildlife Haven, and containing the critter in a separate crate for transport.

The centre is permitted to rehabilitate and care for injured, sick and orphaned birds, including eagles, hawks, owls and falcons; mammals, including rabbits, squirrels, bats, foxes, raccoons and bobcats; and amphibians and reptiles, such as turtles, frogs, salamanders and snakes.

"Animal safety is very important, but people safety is number 1," Nakata said.

With files from Nicholas Frew and Sam Samson

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