This Coyote Almost Died Because Humans Can't Pick Up After Themselves

Officers from the managed to corner the animal late Monday. Oakville & Milton Humane Society

No one knew exactly how long the coyote had been roaming the grassy fields and wooded ravines at Bronte Provincial Park.

But everyone knew one thing for sure: Catching her was a matter of life and death.

The plastic jug stuck to her head meant that she could neither eat nor drink. In the midst of a powerful Canadian snowstorm, it would assure a slow and painful end.

Volunteers from the community, led by the Oakville & Milton Humane Society, scoured the park in Ontario, Canada — even as the storm raged, blanketing trails and roads in snow.

"It raised a lot of commotion," Chantal Theijn, a wildlife rehabilitator at Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge tells MNN. "I was continuously getting massaged about it. Everybody wanted to point it out to me."

But Theijn's rehab center was nearly 50 miles away, in Jarvis, Ontario. Besides, for what seemed an eternity, legions of volunteers, who braved the snow, couldn't corner the elusive animal.

A coyote with a plastic jar on her head
The unfortunate coyote was spotted earlier this week at the park. Oakville & Milton Humane Society

And then, on Monday night, Theijn got the call from tired officers at the Oakville & Milton Humane Society.

"It was probably about 8 or 9," she recalls. "They had actually managed to catch her.

"That was fantastic. They pretty much spent all day working on it. And with the help of some citizens, they managed to corner her and capture her."

A coyote being cared for by animal control officers.
The jar on her head was likely left behind by campers. A coyote is prepared for transport.

But how to transport a terrified coyote with a jar on her head across snowbound southern Ontario to the refuge?

"We were trying to make arrangements for her overnight. The weather was really bad — the roads were bad."

And then someone volunteered to make the drive with a 4X4 truck.

A coyote is readied for transport.
A snowstorm made trails and roads difficult to navigate. Oakville & Milton Humane Society

So, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the coyote — freshly freed from her plastic prison — arrived at Hobbitstee, in the small town of Jarvis.

She was thin, malnourished and not at all happy to be there.

"It's one of those ones where you go really, really slow," Theijn explains. "Like lots of fluids overnight and then a little bit of food in the morning. And then a little bit more food Tuesday night. And then a little bit more food this morning."

And little by little, this resilient animal edged back to the land of the living.

"She's been on IV fluids for the duration. And this morning, I redid her bloodwork and it was looking much better. She did eat on Tuesday morning."

Her appetite for freedom grew stronger too.

"She's very much not enjoying being in captivity for the time being. But she's just isn't quite ready to leave yet."

A coyote recovering at an animal refuge.
Little by little, she's getting her strength back. Oakville & Milton Humane Society

When the coyote is ready, Theijn won't be letting anyone know. She plans to release her patient without fanfare back in the park.

"Just because there's been so much hype about this coyote, I don't want 300 million people at the location where she's going to be released," she says. "She needs the time to reunite with her family and be out of the public eye."

But one thing that Theijn hopes will receive a lot of attention is what brought the coyote to her in the first place: the plastic jug that almost killed her.

It was likely left behind by campers at the park. And while we know that single-use plastics are a menace to all sorts of marine animals, they're equally deadly to all creatures, great or small.

"In this particular case, it was very visible — a coyote," Theijn says. "But obviously for smaller wildlife, it's also a common occurrence."

Indeed, fast-food cups are a particular plague for animals.

"Animals go into it," she says. "And when they come back out of it, they are stuck with that ring around them. I have taken a gazillion of those animals over the years. But I've also had to euthanize animals over the years because the plastic had grown into their skin and so on."

Rather than implore people to pick up after themselves, she thinks lawmakers should focus on the source: fast-food companies that churn out a steady supply of single-use plastics.

The tide against those products is changing globally, as more and more countries curb or outright ban the use of plastic bags, straws and utensils.

Theijn thinks forcing fast-food companies to use only biodegradable plastic would dramatically reduce wildlife deaths.

"No one is going to go hungry as a result."