This three-legged coyote, who lives on the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve, has managed to find herself a pack and survive, despite her injury. Photo by Cholla Nicoll

This year has been extremely challenging. Our collective choices have presented consequences that many of us have not survived. In the modern and wealthy world some of us live in, we rarely see the full results of our actions or inactions like we have in 2020. Many of us are learning to survive in ways we never thought we would have. 

Most of the time, I share light-hearted and educational stories of our local wildlife in an attempt to soften the reality of the frequently brutal nature of survival that we all as animals encounter. We need these gentle breaks to maintain hope and balance in our lives, and there is beauty in the hardest of times. To close out 2020 and ring in 2021, I would like to share a beautiful story of survival from the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve.

Several months back, as summer was waning into fall, I discovered a video that was difficult to watch. A coyote appeared with hackles raised, hobbling on three legs struggling to maneuver in front of the camera. This coyote was missing the lower portion of one of her back legs, and to make matters worse, she appeared to be alone. My mind flooded with questions. What happened to her? A leg trap or snare? A brutal encounter with another wild animal or dog? How will she survive? Will she suffer? Should I help her or let nature take its course?

I alerted my coworkers to be on the lookout for a three-legged coyote and let me know if they saw anything out of the ordinary. We could get her to a wildlife rehabilitation center if she couldn’t hunt on her own. Then she vanished, no more pictures, no more videos, and no sightings. I feared she had succumbed to her injury as life is already challenging for coyotes and other wild animals under the very best conditions.

Then two months later, to my astonishment, she reappeared. Her leg appeared to be no hindrance anymore, and she was part of a pack of four coyotes. Four-legged animals can survive well with three legs, and this coyote with the strong bonds formed in a pack now has an even better chance of survival.

Over the past year, I have collected a small group of images showing her moving throughout the preserve. Please enjoy this unique glimpse into her life and respect her story by not seeking her out. Fleeing from prying human eyes drains vital energy from our precious wildlife. This coyote needs no further challenges.

Once again, I find myself learning and teaching from the animals I observe. When the only choice we have is to survive or perish, we must adapt, seek the support we need, and flourish despite our challenges. Never underestimate that each of us has this ability, don’t give up, disappear when you need to heal, find your pack, and keep trying to survive.