Dead Rat Toy?

A few days ago two young coyotes were playing and chasing each other exuberantly — that is how I’ve always seen these coyotes play. Soon, one ran down a hill and picked up a dead rat. It had to have been dead because the coyote just picked it up without a struggle — I only noticed it once it was in the coyote’s mouth. It was a large rat, bigger than the gophers I have seen them catch. The coyote looked at me and then carried the large rat about 50 feet before depositing it in an area of tamped down grass as I and the other coyote looked on. I could not see any details of the coyote’s behavior as it put down the rat because of the tall grass that separated me from him, but I do know that the rat was not rolled on and it was left entirely whole.

Most of us would avoid a dead rat because of the diseases it carries. Coyotes are known to eat carrion — but it did not do so in this case. So, I’m wondering what purpose a dead rat might serve: was it a toy?

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