Sunday, August 19, 2012

Coyote Bones

It's been nearly a year since I found a coyote dead in the road, brought her home, and skinned her. My journey with her is nearly complete; her skin has long-since been tanned, but over the months, her body has been decomposing in the backyard. In recent weeks, the process of decay has slowed down considerably; the remaining tissue is hard and dry, and no longer attracting insects. Her bones are half-buried in the dirt, their color taking on the same hue as the soil on which they rest.

Coyote Ribs

At some point in June, I decided to remove the head from the body, for fear of losing small teeth and skull fragments. I submerged it in a tub of water, to macerate; there it stayed for several weeks, creating quite the amazing stink.

Finally, at the start of this month, I deemed the maceration to be finished. I removed the remaining bits of tissue (which was not a pleasant endeavor), soaked the skull in peroxide, then set it aside to dry. Like everything before, Coyote's skull proved to be quite the puzzle:

Besides having to deal with a whole array of loose teeth, the back of the skull was in pieces – fractured when the coyote was struck by an automobile. Some of the fragments are still missing, and despite searching for them in the backyard, I was unable to recover them. Rebuilding the skull was another challenge; some of the pieces refused to fit back together just right, as the bone had cracked and buckled from the collision.

After some initial frustration, however, I was able to reassemble Coyote's skull. Seeing it (mostly) whole, for the first time, was pretty amazing.

This coyote was a healthy, mature individual. Her sagittal crest is well-developed, some of the sutures on her rostrum are fused, and her teeth are strong, white, and slightly dulled from some years of use. The only faults I could find with the skull are related to the collision: her auditory bullae are missing, and a few teeth are smashed, which probably happened when her head hit the pavement:

I have one other complete coyote skull, purchased at a powwow last spring, and it's interesting to note the differences between the two. The purchased skull is much smaller, belonging to a juvenile animal; the sagittal crest is less prominent and none of the sutures are fused.

The rest of Coyote's skeleton is still outside. I'll likely be cleaning the bones soon, before colder weather sets in.


  1. Thank you very much, for sharing all your stories about bones and animals.

  2. Wow, great job on that puzzle. The skull turned out very beautiful. And OMG, I hate that rotting stink so much!