First, rescuers realized the emaciated coyote they pulled from the bottom of an empty reservoir in Southern California was blind from being shot between the eyes. Then, the rescuers found the near-death animal was pregnant.
After a monthlong regimen of care, including intravenous fluids and vitamins, the coyote gave birth at an animal hospital to a litter of five healthy puppies.
Julia Di Sieno of the Animal Rescue Team in Solvang found the coyote in the reservoir after a call came into her hotline Feb. 11. The coyote was bleeding and having trouble breathing.
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Di Sieno climbed down 30 feet into the stone-and-mortar reservoir and loaded the wounded animal onto a gurney. She named it Angel.
Examinations revealed Angel had been shot between the eyes, and the bullet blinded her. The coyote then likely wandered the Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara for days or weeks until she tumbled into the reservoir, Di Sieno said.
"What this animal endured is beyond comprehension," Di Sieno told the Los Angeles Times for a story Wednesday. "When she had puppies, I didn't know whether to cry in sadness or for joy."
She plans to care for the puppies until they are mature enough to be released in the surrounding mountains. Di Sieno hopes to keep Angel as a surrogate mother for young coyotes that her nonprofit rescues. But first she has to persuade the state Department of Fish and Wildlife not to euthanize it. In California, possession of a coyote is illegal unless permitted by the state.
Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan told the Times the agency is looking for a reasonable solution.
"The department appreciates Julia and the rescue team's efforts to save this coyote and other wildlife," he said. "We've worked closely with her over the years and appreciate her passion for rescuing imperiled wildlife."