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Coyotes Scavenge More Deer Than They Kill

1-4-19 deer skull eaten by coyotes IMG_2423Coyotes are considered opportunisitic omnivores and will eat just about anything. As the seasons and the availability of foods change, so does the coyote’s diet. During the summer, coyotes feed upon berries and insects. Small mammals are an important prey of choice during the fall and into the winter. As winter becomes harder and small mammal populations decline, coyotes turn toward their largest prey – white-tailed deer.

It is not uncommon to come upon deer carcasses in the winter which have been cleaned within an inch of their life by coyotes, illustrating their preference for this ungulate. However, the majority of deer carcasses consumed by coyotes are not killed by them, but are discovered as carrion or road kills. Coyotes infrequently kill healthy adult deer. Occasionally, working in packs, they will chase them down. Scat dissection shows that in late spring, coyotes prey on fawns.

A study of coyote predatory behavior in New York state several years ago found that during the winter, only 8% of adult deer carcasses visited by coyotes had been killed conclusively by coyotes. The remaining 92% were scavenged by coyotes after being killed by vehicles and other injuries. The adult deer that were killed by coyotes had severe pre-existing injuries and were likely to die from other causes in the absence of coyote predation.

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9 responses

  1. Reuben

    I don’t know about numbers but I saw on the Androscoggin River in Gorham and I’ve heard of stories on Umbagog or nearby ice of coyotes chasing deer, the deer slip and dislocate hips and are then killed by the coyotes. Then they are fed on by coyotoes, bobcat (we had 5 feeding on one near our house) and even eagles.

    A few years back I also saw a clip taken of a doe with a bobcat on it’s back, taken by a skidder operator near Berlin, NH. There were multiple deer in a yarding area and an adult bobcat apparently attacked and killed one.

    January 4, 2019 at 8:52 am

  2. Thanks for this post. Coyotes are important scavengers that are actually a cleanup crew on duty.

    January 4, 2019 at 9:00 am

  3. Thank you for this post Mary! So important for people to be educated about “normal” coyote behavior. In my opinion, they are an important link within normal prey vs. predator cycles and help to maintain balance.
    Here in NH, they are killed/ hunted at random, 365 days a year, in any amount, any time of day, with any method, resulting in normal pack behaviors being severely disrupted.
    So some of us are working to restore sensible hunting regulations regarding the killing of coyotes in NH, mainly during pup rearing times of year. The hope is their family units can remain together longer, resulting in less dispersal confusion and potential conflict with people and domestic animals.

    January 4, 2019 at 9:16 am

    • Alice Pratt

      That’s terrible that there are no better hunting rules in place…so many cruel humans who don’t know how to leave well enough alone. There are rules here in MA about only certain times of the year for hunting turkeys & deer…I don’t know about coyotes here.

      January 4, 2019 at 12:36 pm

  4. Martha Adams

    Information some of your neighbors ought to know!

    Sent from my iPad


    January 4, 2019 at 1:08 pm

  5. Mary

    Can I post this on FB?. It is so important for people to in a this.

    Marlene Vidibor “Like” me at

    January 4, 2019 at 3:31 pm

  6. nangalland

    I love coyotes!! Thank you for this! xox – Nan >

    January 4, 2019 at 6:20 pm

  7. robert moore

    About ten years on a cold, snowy winter morning the Animal Control Officer and I, as Health Agent/Animal Inspector, in Shrewsbury MA received calls from a resident about a dead wild animal mess on their property near the road. The resident requested any help we could offer and had no desire to look at the scene. It was reported that coyotes had been howling and making a fracas that night. We responded to find an adult doe carcass with coyote bite marks as well as strewn deer parts, numerous coyote tracks of various sizes, a lot of coyote scat and doe blood on the snow covered ground. Looking closer it was found that the tibia of the strewn left leg was cleanly broken straight through with no obvious bite marks. A neighbor stated that it sounded like a car had skidded on the slippery road that night. The evidence suggested that it was most probable that several coyotes had been chasing the deer which then collided with a car suffering a broken leg. The coyotes finished it off for a meal. It is also plausible that the doe had a collision with a car on the road first. The coyotes later sensed the seriously wounded deer and preyed on it.

    January 4, 2019 at 6:49 pm

  8. Bill on the hill

    I suspected this post would bring out the ” Bamby Lovers ” in force. In that regard it succeeded. There is a plausible reason why the non-native coyote & now the top predator in New England has an ” Open Season ” in many if not most of the northeast States. I would suggest those who profess a love for this predator read up a bit more on this subject before commenting with knee jerk reactions…
    Thank you.

    January 5, 2019 at 8:36 am

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