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Coyote Winter Diet

Coyotes are opportunistic carnivores – whatever is available and relatively easy to find and/or catch, coyotes will eat. In spring, summer and fall, insects, small rodents and fruit make up most of their diet. In winter, when insects aren’t around and rodents are hidden by snow, coyotes are more dependent upon carrion, particularly white-tailed deer. Coyotes are often blamed for preying heavily on deer, and their scat often does contain deer hair, but studies have shown that most (92% in one study) of the deer consumed by coyotes are scavenged after being killed by vehicles or having died as a result of other injuries. A large percentage of the deer that are killed by coyotes have severe pre-existing injuries and would likely have died from them had they not been preyed upon by coyotes. (The pictured coyote scat consists largely of rotting apples, with a sprinkling of deer hair.)

1-31-14  coyote scat 137
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5 responses


    Nice posting. Some years ago there was a moose with clear signs of brainworm hanging around in western Dorchester. The animal was clearly suffering; but soon disappeared. I am presuming a bit of merciful coyote euthanasia took place, and am glad for the moose that it did not have to suffer further.

    January 31, 2014 at 1:52 pm

  2. Mary, I’m a champion of understanding coyote predation and diet, a LOAD of misconceptions out there by the two-leggeds (!). This winter in Alberta started early and hard and it’s tough, very hard, this year on the wildlife – prey and predators. Just ten days back, after yet another blizzard and then a sunlit day after, I saw just south of the farmhouse here, three coyotes here ‘setting’ up and then a darned good attempt a line on a fully grown mature deer. With them running her down and closing, luckily for her the crust on the spindrifted snow gave way on the galloping coyotes, who sank down to their bellies and gave up and chatted to each other about improving tactics, but that was a close-run affair. So, very once in a while, the exception to the rule!

    January 31, 2014 at 3:22 pm

  3. I love the role coyotes play in keeping the balance. They get blamed for killing cats, but fishers are mostly the guilty party there (keeping cats inside is a good idea for the cat as well as birds, etc.).
    It is amazing how in nature nothing of an animal is wasted. A few winters back over the course of a week, I watched an entire adult deer carcass consumed until only it’s skull was left. Loud vocalizing at night attested to the work of the clean up crew.

    January 31, 2014 at 9:59 pm

  4. Grady

    About 5 years ago, on Isle au Haut in Maine, in February, I witnessed a dramatic scene involving a doe and a coyote. A single coyote chased a juvenile doe into the ocean in front of my house. The deer swam to a rocky point about 100 yards away where the coyote was waiting. When the coyote attacked, the doe swam back to where she started, dragged herself out of the frigid water onto the jagged granite shore revealing several bleeding gashes on her legs. Sensing my presence perhaps, the coyote withdrew from the attack. Meanwhile the doe, clearly exhausted, would have been easier prey as she recovered on the rocks for nearly an hour.

    February 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm

  5. AJ

    Pam -if the coyotes didn’t succeed, it’s not an exception to the rule! It’s not that they don’t try, it’s that snow depth works against them sooner than it works against the deer :). But that sounds like an awesome scene to watch… wish I’d been there!

    February 1, 2014 at 6:57 pm

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