More Play: Wallowing On A Dead Mole

This coyote stopped at a brown spot in a grassy area and rolled on it: twisting and turning, lowering the shoulders first and sliding down the small incline. The activity was repeated over and over many times. Then the coyote walked about 8 feet and did the same thing, over and over, occasionally checking to see that I was watching. THIS TIME, however, there was a dead mole involved. The coyote picked it up, moved it over then rolled on it. The coyote’s enthusiasm and joy in this activity increased as the moments went by: the mole was tossed up in the air then swung over to the side and picked up again. So, besides rubbing itself in a smelly dead mole, the activity seemed to constitute play — joyful play!! I’ve seen this wallowing on a dead animal before: on a dead snake and a dead lizard. This time it was a furry mole. I have found a number of dead moles — obviously they had not been eaten. I wonder if moles, lizards and snakes are distasteful to coyotes? I’ve seen domestic dogs wallow in distasteful stuff.  What they roll on is always very smelly, so the assumption is that they are “perfuming” themselves. For what purpose, I don’t think anyone knows for sure. We do know that the dog or coyote is thoroughly enjoying himself as he wallows!

On a few occasions I have distinctly felt that when I observed “playing” or “toying with prey” that there was an aspect of “performance” involved for me as an observer. The coyote definitely saw me and looked over to make sure I was watching. The wallowing on the mole carcass lasted a full eight minutes: it was a feature length performance!!

See more wallowing postings: on a lizard: A “Perfume Bath”: coyote behavior of October 29, 2009; on a snake: A Snake Is Found: Coyote behavior of March 6, 2010; and on other waste: Another Smelly Rub-down: Coyote behavior of January 3, 2010.

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