Black Squirrel Outfoxes Two Coyotes

These two coyotes were rustling in the bushes and very excited when I happened upon them. They kept scurrying back and forth and up and down in the same area, noses to the ground. Then suddenly a black creature whizzed passed them, and me, at full speed and up to the very top of a tree branch. I thought I had seen a black cat, but it was too small and a cat was unlikely to be in this part of the woods.  Soon I was able to see that it was a black squirrel! I had never seen a black squirrel before.

The coyotes went into hot pursuit, but, as usual, they were no match for the squirrel. The squirrel must have known he was safe perched high above the ground. He complained bitterly and loudly, thrusting his tail tensely back and forth. The coyotes paced a little and eyed the squirrel for some time from below. Eventually they gave up — they would not be able to reach the squirrel. One coyote sauntered off, but the other coyote lay down in forlorn resignation a few feet away for about ten minutes.  This is when the squirrel stopped its angry chattering and its tail movements, and became absolutely frozen and still. The second coyote then departed, but the squirrel remained frozen for long after both coyotes had gone. Only once have I seen a coyote with a captured squirrel, and this was a small young one that may have been injured or may have fallen out of its nest.

I have the impression that for coyotes, at least for well-fed coyotes, the activity of hunting borders on play: the excitement, novelty, adventure and amusement of a hunt are as compelling as the reward at the end of having captured something. This would explain why coyotes continually chase squirrels they can’t catch, or sometimes discard rodents after they capture them.

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