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Coyote Sign: “ottering” in snow

1-22-13 coyote sign IMG_1566Has your dog ever flopped down into the snow, rolled over and wiggled its body back and forth, appearing to rub its back? This behavior is exhibited by other members of the dog family, including coyotes. With a little imagination you can see the coyote’s head print at the left side of this impression, and its hind feet on the right, both made while it was “ottering” in the snow. If anyone can shed light on why canids engage in this winter time activity, it would be much appreciated!

19 responses

  1. John DeWitt

    I think it feels good for them to roll in the soft snow. But it may also be a way to clean their fur in the winter. The dry snow scrubs and washes their fur. Sounds funny, nature’s “dry cleaning”. I have heard of people doing this with their furs and rugs with success. Just make sure you have the fur/rug outside long enough to get cold before washing, otherwise the snow will stick to the warm article. It must be cold and dry.

    January 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm

  2. I agree with John’s answer. Many animals roll in the dirt or snow. My horse did it every time I put him back in the pasture after riding him – probably scratching his itchy back. I found lots of possible answers, but the most plausible one to me is – it just feels good!

    January 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

  3. Susan H

    My cat does something like that. She will come up to a low snow bank and rub her face and neck and the top of her head along the edge. She can spend up to 10 minutes doing this and then jump straight up in the air and scamper away, perhaps half way up a tree!

    January 22, 2013 at 2:47 pm

  4. Kathryn

    Because it feels good!!!

    January 22, 2013 at 2:54 pm

  5. My guess is the weather in the winter outside and inside our homes is very dry, very low humidty. This makes for very dry skin on animals and people . Rolling around in the snow Gives the opportunity to shed some of the dry skin….which .. DOES feel good ..For us we us a moisturizer…. animal they use what is available to them snow!…..

    January 22, 2013 at 2:55 pm

  6. Kathy Schillemat

    I think that it feels good, and probably serves as a way to dislodge fleas or ticks. Also, sometimes I have seen my dog do it when he comes to a spot where some other animal has laid a scent, perhaps to lay his own scent. I have seen him rub his body from head to tail very intensely in the snow after sniffing a particular spot.

    January 22, 2013 at 3:25 pm

  7. Cecelia Blair

    Add ing to the other comments, which seem valid to me, I want to say that the wiggling and stretching involved helps keep the muscles and connective tissue in better condition. We know from yoga, dance, etc. that full-range-of-motion movements are tonic, increase flexibility and function, and help clear the lymph out of its collecting spots to clean and clear the body. We humans feel better after stretching and rolling around too!

    January 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

  8. It just feels good I think. We call them “dog angels” !

    January 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm

  9. Heidi

    My dogs will roll and rub thier fur on top of a dead mouse they have found or killed. I have seen this many times over the years with several dogs, and again just this morning (we live in the woods). not sure this is the same behavior.

    January 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm


    Canines do this in the sand, grass, snow. Many times they roll in the debris or carcass of a dead animal. Do they roll to leave their markings? Or to pick up the scent of another to mask their own. Also the snow cools them down and cleans them as well.

    January 22, 2013 at 4:49 pm

  11. SD

    I want a copy of the photo! How do I get one?


    January 22, 2013 at 6:10 pm

  12. Trish Adams

    I love your site! My border collie always did this (now a spirit) and I thought it was a bath of sorts. Cheers  T

    January 22, 2013 at 6:12 pm

  13. Leslie English

    I imagine the cold snow feels refreshing and energizing; perhaps helps with any itchiness, and provides a back-scratch! The dogs I know are more active & playful in snow; perhaps all canids? Your posts are wonderful! and I have given away many of your books. Many thanks!! Leslie English

    January 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm


    body{font-size:10pt;font-family:arial,sans-serif;background-color:#ffffff;color:black;}p{margin:0px;}WordPress.comBecause it feels fantastic. And it’s how rugs used to be cleaned -rubbing snow on them and whacking them with a broom. My dog gets so happy when she takes snow baths, and looks fresh once she’s shaken it all off!

    January 22, 2013 at 10:44 pm

  15. SD

    I personally talked to the creature and she said she was trying to shake off the mid winter blues.

    January 24, 2013 at 6:36 pm

  16. I know this is an older post, but I came across some great trail camera footage on Youtube that appears to show a coyote “ottering” in the background. Watch the coyote in the top of the video. Neat stuff.

    January 17, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    • Outstanding, Vermont_Ed-802. Wonderful fun watching it — thank you so much!

      January 17, 2014 at 10:34 pm

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