SPCA officials rescued an injured year-old female coyote over the weekend after it was found lying at the side of a Town of Tonawanda highway with its left front leg clamped in a metal leg-hold trap.
The animal suffered puncture wounds on its foot and a gash on its shoulder from the illegal trap, which is composed of two metal jaws that slam shut.
The coyote was found Saturday morning, bleeding and lying almost motionless, at the side of the Niagara Thruway southbound lane, near the entrance to the Youngmann Highway.
Sunday, the coyote was recovering in the Erie County SPCA facility on Ensminger Road in the Town of Tonawanda, where veterinarians treated its wounds. It was expected to be released into the wild within a week.
SPCA spokeswoman Gina Browning said coyotes are fairly common in Western New York, but she believes this is the first time that her agency has treated a coyote caught in a trap.
"Based on the condition of the wound, it appeared to be a fairly fresh wound and it appeared that she didn't drag the trap too far," Browning said Sunday. "This a brutal way for an animal to die."
"It's a brutal mechanism," she said. "It's a cruel and inhumane way of trapping and capturing animals."
The trap that captured the coyote is illegal because it was not tagged with the name and address of the trapper, which is a violation of the state's Department of Environmental Conservation regulations.
At about 9:20 a.m., a motorist driving along the Niagara Thruway noticed the coyote caught in a trap at the side of the highway and reported it to the State Thruway Authority.
State Trooper Ward Wilson responded to the scene and notified SPCA's animal rescue team, who freed the coyote from the trap and transported it to the shelter.
Joel Thomas, an SPCA wildlife administrator and veterinary technician, said coyotes are misunderstood because they are typically afraid of humans and they often live undetected in rural and urban communities near Western New Yorkers.
"This coyote has suffered needlessly," said Thomas.
"Trapping is never the answer to wildlife as a perceived nuisance or an actual nuisance. Mostly, the answer is modification of habitat. It's usually something that people are doing that attracts wildlife. For example, people feeding their pets outside, or bird feeders that encourage other species to come around.
"Coyotes are scavengers, so they'll do what they need to survive," he said.