A Southern California man was in for a howling surprise recently when he rescued what he believed to be a puppy and soon discovered that it was no snuggly house pet after all.
While walking his dog in a Tierrasanta canyon on March 22, the man came across the abandoned furry creature, Dariel Walker, a representative at San Diego Human Society, tells PEOPLE.
With no hesitation, Walker says the man brought the little “puppy” back home before the Humane Society arrived at his residence to treat the animal.
In an unexpected twist of events, both the man and the SDHS officers were shocked to learn that this was no sleepy puppy under his roof — it was a baby coyote.
Confirming the shocking find on Facebook last Wednesday, the SDHS also shared two sweet, close-up photos of the wild animal snoozing.
“Our Humane Officers recently received a call about an abandoned puppy in a canyon in Tierrasanta,” they wrote. “To their surprise, the little creature was actually a coyote pup!”
In the post, the SDHS also explained that they took the little coyote to be examined at Project Wildlife, a program of the Humane Society that cares for all wildlife animals. It was there that Walker said they were able to determine the coyote’s age.
“Our veterinarians gave the pup a medical exam and some formula,” Walker tells PEOPLE. “We believe the pup was only a few days old, and its eyes had not yet opened.”
The creature was then transferred to Ramona-based wildlife sanctuary, The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center. The Center aids in rehabilitating orphaned, injured or ill animals before releasing them back into their native habitats, according to their website.
“The pup was in our care for no more than 24 hours before it was transferred to the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, California,” Walker continued. “The pup will stay there until deemed ready for release back into the wild.”
Though it’s not surprising that someone could easily mix up the coyote pup with a dog, Walker says this type of occurrence doesn’t happen often.
“It is very rare for our team at Project Wildlife to care for a coyote pup. In fact, it has been at least a couple of years since one has come through our doors,” he says.
Still, because hikers may run the risk of occasionally encountering abandoned wild animals, Walker advises that people wait to make sure that animal is truly alone and in need of help.
“If you come across a wild animal that appears to be orphaned or abandoned, we recommend waiting and observing before taking the animal to a wildlife rehabilitation center, like Project Wildlife,” he tells PEOPLE. “Often times mothers will leave their babies for the day and then return at night.”
Project Wildlife rehabilitation director Lauren DuBois also echoed these sentiments to The San Diego Union-Tribune and suggested that the baby coyote may have been discovered last month while its mother was searching for a new den and transferring her pups — something she said coyotes frequently do.
At this time, it is unclear when The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center plans to release the baby coyote back into the wild.
Reps at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
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