KENNEBUNK, Maine — A wildlife expert says he finally has an answer on the mystery white animal found dead in Kennebunk last week: it’s a rare white Eastern coyote.
After giving the animal a thorough examination early Monday afternoon — but not doing a necropsy yet — Maine Wildlife Biologist Scott Lindsay said measurements of the animal’s bones, the condition of its teeth and its bottle brush tail all are “very consistent” with a coyote.
“It’s certainly not a wolf,” he said. “And nothing leads me to believe it’s a domestic animal.”
The mystery first started when the white animal staggered out of the woods around 7 p.m. March 18 behind a Balsam Lane home, crawled under the back porch and died.
After seeing photos of the animals two days later, Lindsay spent three days tracking its body down, finally securing it on Friday from behind a business in Alfred where it had been dumped.
Lindsay said the animal was something of a mystery because of its white fur and the fact that its nose color is not that usually found in coyotes.
“The nose color is off — it’s pinkish,” he said. “That’s something you find with a domestic dog.”
Clearly, though, the animal had pigmentation issues, Lindsay said, which could account for the pinkish nose. It was other factors that finally convinced him the animal was a coyote.
“It was the cranial measurements, the length of the canines, the distant between some teeth,” he said. “It had very, very white teeth.”
Domestic dogs usually have yellower teeth with more tartar built up from eating dog food, Lindsay said.
“With wild animals, the teeth are in very good shape,” he said. “They’re very, very sharp and longer than domestics.’”
Other clues were its dew claws, the stiff whiskers around its nose, its good undercoat and outer guard hairs and the pad pattern on its feet, he said.
And while some people raised the possibility of a coydog — a combination coyote/dog — Lindsay said that’s not the case and they are rarer than people think these days.
“That was more of a phenomenon in the 1950s,” he said, when there were fewer coyotes for other coyotes to mate with. That isn’t the case today. “Coyotes are generally aggressive toward dogs.”
One mystery that remains, though, is exactly how the animal died.
Lindsay said he is awaiting word from state officials on whether they wish to send it to a taxidermist to create a display with the animal for demonstration purposes. That will determine how he will necropsy the animal, he said, which he will likely do later this week. He may even take it to a local veterinarian to be scanned, just to be certain it wasn’t micro-chipped at some point.
“It was a healthy animal,” he said, noting its weight was 37 pounds, putting it on the large side for a coyote. “It was an older adult — over 2 years of age.”
Lindsay said the animal was clean, as most coyotes are, but that a necropsy could help to determine the condition of its organs or whether or not it suffered trauma, such as getting hit by a car.
While the animal didn’t appear to be aggressive toward the people at the Balsam Lane home or display any physical signs of rabies, Lindsay said he took precautions to ensure that he wasn’t exposed to the virus or any parasites.
“While rabies is usually short-lived, in winter it’s more likely to live under the right conditions,” he said.
He said that he used the same precautions he would encourage anyone to use when dealing with a wild animal they find dead — wearing latex gloves and using tools that are then bleached once the animal is disposed of.
“You have to practice good barrier methods,” he said.
Lindsay said while having the coyote die near a home is unusual, what really set this one apart was its color.
“You don’t usually have white coyotes,” he said, adding that most are a grizzled gray or beige. “It’s very unusual.”
He knows of only one other found in the state, he said, which was trapped up in Patten, near Baxter State Park.
“It’s not one in a million,” he said of the Kennebunk coyote. “But it’s extremely rare.”