Dealings With A Mole

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.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ginny
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 18:00:25

    Thank you Janet for this mole post. As you know, I have been curious about the dead moles on the greenspace trail near my home. Some appear to have been “worked over” by coyotes while others seem untouched. I thought that poison as a cause of death seemed unlikely because houses were a quarter mile away. Then I found this information on an Ohio State Extension website:
    “All things considered, moles are fascinating animals …
    A 5 ounce mole will consume 45-50 lbs of worms and insects each year.
    Moles can dig surface tunnels at approximately 18 feet/hour.
    Moles travel through existing tunnels at about 80 feet/minute.
    Moles contain twice as much blood and twice as much hemoglobin as other mammals of similar size. This allows moles to breathe more easily in underground environments with low oxygen.”
    Very interesting little critters I think! Their work aerates the soil and gives a gardener a wonderful resource of finely crumbled soil above the runs.


    • yipps
      Jul 01, 2011 @ 18:15:53

      Hi Ginny — This is really fascinating! It shows how well adapted each critter is to its particular niche in the world. Thank you! Janet

  2. Charlotte Hildebrand
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 18:52:30

    So interesting about moles, and how the coyote played with it, like a cat a mouse. Here on Mt. Washington we have an abundance of mole holes; you can’t walk ten feet without seeing outcroppings of dirt piled up and spilling over, within which there is a perfectly rounded hole. Interesting too, Janet, that the coyote was observing you, checking you out…. wonder if you’ve been spied on before, but unaware of the spy?


  3. yipps
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 19:42:04

    Hi Charlotte —

    “Voles”, too, create little holes. In this area, we have many more vole holes than mole holes.

    Coyotes always know I’m there, but as a disinterested bystander off to the side — as part of the landscape. However, in this case with the mole, the coyote thought I was “involved”– an actual player — when I went to examine the prey. This is the first time this has happened. Janet


  4. Charles Wood
    Jul 18, 2011 @ 10:43:58

    For the first time the other day I saw my 9 year old dog Holtz urinate on worthless food and it reminded me of Janet’s coyote marking its vole. On our river bed walk, Holtz had determined that a discarded cat food container’s only value was to receive his mark. The next day Holtz investigated the container and the entire area around it, taking in all the scents. By the third day Holtz had lost interest. I’m speculating here: any competent coyote can probably discriminate good food from bad, there may really have been something about that particular mole that would cause any coyote to balk at eating it and that using it to mark on is the last best thing to be done with an unpalatable mole you have already scented yourself with and played with. Perhaps the marking message therefore wouldn’t be “this is bad food” because every coyote around would be able to determine such for itself. I wonder if rejected moles are a real good thing to leave a general hello messge on. It looks like that coyote went to see what message Janet left and found that Janet hadn’t marked the mole properly!!!


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