We boiled the skull of the coyote that Kirk shot, and were surprised to have the bottom jaw come out in three pieces. It was broken clean through, with a large, shattering injury to the lower right jaw, under and behind the last tooth. Huh, I thought, did Kirk shoot him there? I didn’t think so. I knew he had gotten a good, lethal shot to the chest.

Looking back at the photos, his face showed no outward signs of injury. [Somewhat graphic pictures below, click for more if you’d like to view them and read the rest of the story.]

CoyoteFaceWe didn’t notice when we were skinning it, probably too fixated on getting the lips perfect. But I found a photo of the head that shows a lot of tissue damage under the skin there- ow! Lots of bruised and purple flesh, and is that hole an infection exit hole? An old bullet hole? The now-clean bone looks like it was trying to knit and fill in, so I bet he’d had this injury for a little while.

CoyoteBruisedJaw It’s interesting because the several attacks we’d had on our poultry had been clumsy, and I’d originally thought maybe it was a pup not yet skilled at hunting. Usually coyotes are pretty surgical about taking birds, they snag one quickly, and take off to eat it somewhere safe. But in the big duck attack, the dog seemed to bite, but not kill, almost all of the birds, and the ones that did die seemed to be more traumatized than skillfully dispatched.

ChickenOnefeatherLater, we had some chickens come up with all of their tail feathers missing, and the above chicken had a tear to her rectum, to boot. (She managed to keep a single tail feather, and looks funny now! And, she’s healing up fine.) And none were  missing on those days. I thought it odd that the coyote got his mouth on the chickens like that, but then botched the hunt in the end. That’s not like a coyote! It’s more like a domestic dog, but we’re pretty sure there aren’t any out here, at least during the day when this had been happening.

But now I see why he was having trouble, and why he was in unthrifty condition too. He was struggling with a very serious, and probably very painful jaw break. I have to imagine that every bite was excruciating for him, poor guy. No wonder he was trying for poultry, it was probably the only thing left he had any chance at snagging, and even that was hard for him. I wonder what caused the injury? An earlier gunshot wound that closed up? Or a blow from a horse or cow kick? I can’t think of what else would cause damage like that, in such a weird location.

Well, so I think we probably did him a favor. Though coyotes are clever and tough, serious damage to the mouth is not a good thing for a predator. He likely wouldn’t have made it through winter and would have suffered a lot. Like I always say, nature is tough!