Saturday, April 08, 2006

Autopsy report on Hal the Coyote

From today's New York Times

April 8, 2006

Rat Poison Cited in Coyote's Death

Hal, the year-old coyote who died in custody after leading the authorities on a gripping chase through Central Park last month, was seriously ill from a heartworm infestation and internal hemorrhaging caused by rat poison, according to the results of a necropsy released yesterday by the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

On March 30, 10 days after he was first sighted in Central Park and 8 days after he was captured in an intense pursuit, Hal stopped breathing during a routine tagging procedure by two biologists.

In a statement, the agency said, "His poor health, coupled with the stress of captivity and handling during the release, led to his death."

Paul Curtis, a wildlife specialist at Cornell University whose work focuses on conflicts between humans and wildlife, said, "It was a very sick coyote."

A graduate student of Dr. Curtis's, Dan Bogan, was one of the biologists trying to tag Hal for release into the wild when the coyote stopped breathing. Dr. Curtis said that the procedure caused minimal stress and that Mr. Bogan was experienced in tagging coyotes.

The necropsy added details about Hal's last days, noting that after he was transferred to wildlife rehabilitators on Long Island, he was fed venison, chicken thighs, organ meats, canned dog food and kibble.

It also described the tagging process, saying that after Hal was taken from his carrier and held with a catchpole — a long pole with a plastic-coated-wire loop used to secure animals — his mouth was kept shut with an Ace bandage. "The nose was clear for breathing," the report said. A few minutes later, "during ear-tagging," Hal stopped breathing.

Dr. Curtis said that signs of heartworms, caused by mosquito-borne parasites, are not outwardly visible. He also said it was likely that Hal had eaten a rat or mouse that had ingested poison.