I watched as a small prey was quickly and effortlessly plucked from the ground — I mean, after a single nose-poke into the ground, the coyote ran off with the small prey dangling from its mouth. I marveled at how adept some coyotes were at hunting. I’ve seen moles and gophers hunted down, and it always takes some doing. The coyote nosed its prey and watched it intently, picking it up a few times and watching it intently again. The coyote was looking for a response, for any sign of movement. I’ve seen coyotes do this with most of their prey before consuming it. The coyote was treating it as if it were not quite dead.
Once absolutely sure the mole was not moving, the coyote lowered the front part of its body onto the dead animal and began rubbing its neck on the critter. This was repeated several times. When done, the coyote examined the critter again and then urinated on it rather than eating it. This clued me in that it was probably a mole: they don’t seem to eat moles, but they do like rubbing themselves on them because of their smell.
After the coyote walked off, I took the opportunity to go see what the animal was. It was a mole. Not only that, it became obvious to me that it was a mole which had been dead for some time — it was hard and cold. Hmmmm. I wondered why the coyote had treated it as if it had been alive, waiting for it to move, toying with it and watching for it to react. Maybe he was hoping; maybe it was just a game. I feel that the coyote knew it was already dead when he found it. I had concentrated on the toying behavior of the coyote instead of the speed with which the critter was plucked from the ground as the main clue to what was going on.
As I finished photographing the dead mole, I looked up to see the coyote — still there — watching me. I thought that the coyote had moved on — I had no idea that I was being watched. I immediately and quickly walked away — I had no intention of giving the impression that I was actually interested in “stealing” it.
As I walked off, the coyote, again, approached “his” mole and examined it for any changes I might have made — such as that I might have declared ownership by urinating on it? He smelled it intently, as before. This time he was assessing me through any markings I might have made. Satisfied that I had not marked it as mine, he wandered off, this time for good. This is the first time a coyote I’ve been observing has actually checked me out and thought I was “involved”. My personal method is never to be “involved” in whatever a coyote is doing: if I’m reacted to in any way, I know I’ve overstepped the bounds I like to maintain for myself. It happened this time.