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Coyotes Feeding on Deer Carcasses

12-22-14 deer carcass 394Ninety percent of a coyote’s diet is animal matter, including creatures as varied as meadow voles, mice, muskrats, raccoons, beetles and grasshoppers — basically, anything it can outrun. Coyotes have the reputation as major predators of deer. While research confirms that deer (and rabbits) comprise a good portion of a coyote’s diet in the Northeast, the majority of the deer that coyotes consume is scavenged as carrion (see photo). Because they cannot move as fast as adult deer, fawns are more vulnerable to coyote predation.

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6 responses

  1. Bill On The Hill...

    Under normal conditions, by that I mean shallow snow, deer have the clear advantage over predators such as coyotes, however under deep snow conditions, clearly the coyote/coy dogs have an advantage with their wide padded feet & the ability to ” swiftly ” run over the snow in order to bring down their prey.
    I do believe there are numerous reasons for ” Open Season ” here in VT. on coyotes, ( they will clean out local rabbit populations before moving onto the next area & have the uncanny ability to sniff out fawns as well. )
    My understanding of the science of coyote reproduction rates is if enough get killed off, they compensate for it by producing more offspring…
    Great post Mary.
    Thanks, BF…

    December 29, 2014 at 3:14 pm

  2. Jon Binhammer

    As to whether coyotes have any advantage over healthy deer, I am skeptical. If you google “coyote feet”, you will see that their feet are not “wide padded”, like a bobcat or a lynx, but more like a domestic dog. So, perhaps in snow situations with a crust that deer hooves penetrate (the Inuit word for this snow is ‘sikuktouk’ – the snow that cuts the caribou’s legs), while coyotes can stay on top like a domestic dog, they may have an advantage.

    December 29, 2014 at 3:58 pm

  3. Cliff Fairweather

    Coyotes might not have much impact on deer populations in many areas, but there is research to indicate that they can benefit birds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by reducing the number of medium sized predators, such as foxes, raccoons, and feral cats. Medium sized predators experienced an ecological release after the extirpation of wolves and this new (at least in the east) “top dog” tends to reduce their numbers when it arrives. Eastern coyotes are a relatively new phenomenon and it should be interesting to see how their presence affects the ecosystems they inhabit.

    December 29, 2014 at 4:12 pm

  4. At least here in west MA, I see coyotes as keeping the balance. They have a bad rep that has a thread of truth in it, but we need predators and coyotes seem to be the major players here. The carcasses I’ve seen are picked clean within a week, nothing wasted. It’s quite amazing seeing the food chain in action.

    December 29, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    • Diane

      It’s good to see road kill cleaned up by scavengers.

      December 29, 2014 at 10:25 pm

  5. Gaylee Amend

    The above, awful but necessary and a good management of carrion unless it’s poisoned or full of buckshot. Imagine the parasites passed around like musical chairs, but they, too, have a place in our systems. Gay Amend

    December 29, 2014 at 11:14 pm

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