Self-Medication? Scat Left On A Path: A Message?

I watched this coyote poop only a few paces before it stopped to sniff. It sniffed at the base of a tree and then at a spot on the ground close to the tree. The spot close to the tree was the greater attraction. The coyote remained sniffing here and then began to lower itself onto the spot to “roll” or “wallow” on it. The coyote only went so far as to lower its head sideways onto the spot when it changed its mind. Instead, it walked a few paces forwards and pooped, again, within a few inches of the spot it had been smelling — close enough to be called “on” it. Then it walked on. I was able to see that the coyote had sniffed a three-inch piece of cooked fish with the bone intact. How this got to the path I don’t know: we have both raccoons and coyotes who could have removed it from a patio meal plate left out, or from a garbage can.

So, after having been attracted to the fish’s strong scent, the coyote began to roll on it, but then decided to poop on it instead. Hmmm — two things, probably separate things, were going on here: rolling on something had its own purpose; and pooping right here had another — maybe?

1) Was the pooping a form of marking, of leaving a message? The coyote had just pooped a few paces earlier, with me behind on the coyote’s path. I’ve observed this same situation a couple of times before. It pooped only a few paces after the first pile: was the poop saved purposefully, like skunk scent, to be used when needed?  Was this at all related to the “rolling on the fish”?

2) Could rolling on something, such as the fish, constitute “marking IT” — the coyote leaving its own scent there, a sort of “trumping” what was already there, the same as when a coyote marks over dog poop or urine it has found? Or, as I have written before, was the coyote trying to “perfume” itself, either for the fun of it or as some kind of “disguise”? OR, and this is my new idea, is there some kind of self-medication involved in rolling on specific items — the same way we humans use ointments? Might rolling in dead smelly stuff ward off skin mites? This coyote does have patches of fur loss. Mange is a common ailment of coyotes, and can actually kill them, though I don’t know if this particular coyote is afflicted specifically with mange.

A hypothesis: I’ve gone to the Internet to find that some of the skin “treatments” for mange include apple cider vinegar or borax or a borax/hydrogen peroxide combination or even neem oil with its sulfur smelling properties. I tried to figure out what these might have in common with the smelly things I have seen a coyote rub itself on: dead lizard, dead snake, dead mole, rancid fish, and with horse manure and fish-emulsion used as fertilizer which I’ve seen dogs rub themselves in. It appears that the dead animals were left in their locations specifically to be wallowed on over and over again. Decomposition produces gases and acids. Might the mites responsible for mange be warded off by the byproducts of decomposing tissue? Or might the Ph level of these byproducts be soothing to mite-infested skin? I’m wondering if these byproducts of decomposition have some of the same properties as apple cider vinegar or borax or neem oil? I’m not a chemist or biochemist. This is just a thought I had. Feedback is welcome!

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