Wild Animals/Strange animal


QUESTION: My granddaughter lives in Rockbridge County, VA. She sent me a message on Facebook just now about a strange animal she saw in her backyard. She said it was the color of a fox, had a face like a hyiena, tail like a rat and was the size of a coyote. Any idea what that could have been? Her grandfather (maternal) lives across the road from her, has lived in that area all his life and has no idea what she saw. And, of course, her father is working so she and her mother are there by themselves.

ANSWER: Dear Patty

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

From your granddaughter's accurate description, the animal sounds like a coyote suffering from mange. http://nwco.net/044-wildlifediseases/4-6-1-mange.asp and http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10370_12150_12220-26949--,00.html give details about mange. http://www.wildlifehotline.com/welcome/mammals/coyotes/mange-3/ shows photos of coyotes with mange, including one with a rat-like tail.

http://www.wildlifehotline.com/welcome/mammals/coyotes/mange-3/ gives information about treatment. Please note that people can catch mange from coyotes, so you should avoid touching the coyote.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/urban/) says that you should report the coyote to this department via http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/contact/.

I hope this helps.

All the best


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: This animal "played and pooped" in their backyard according to my granddaughter. Could their dog get mange from that?

Dear Patty

Thank you for your follow-up question. I also want to thank the authors of the websites I used.

http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/wldhealth/diseases_from_wildlife_safetyma gives details about wild animal diseases.

http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/wildlife/problem_wildlife/coyote.html says that dogs should avoid contact with coyotes and their droppings and your granddaughter should ensure that her dog's vaccinations are up to date.

http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/human/lww_information/coyotes.html gives a lot of advice. It says that dogs should be taken in at night and not left unattended. It may be best for your granddaughter to keep her dog on a lead if she sees any signs of the coyote in her backyard, so that the dog doesn't come in contact with droppings.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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