Two Coyotes, A Deceased Owl, and A Pussy Cat

Coyote stories usually involve more than just what meets the eye: background details and previous situations can contribute to filling out an understanding of the story. Then again, all stories are simply slices of time — partial stories. We tell them with a satisfying or instructive outcome or conclusion, but the story, in some form, of course, goes on. This entire observation lasted only a few minutes, but it was interesting, especially when expanded upon with a few things I know about these particular coyotes. But you’ll have to use your imagination to fill in the gaps: it’s still only a partial story.

Two coyotes were out foraging for mice in their field, when one of them came upon a find-of-the-week treasure: a dead barn owl. Coyotes are opportunistic eaters, and here, an opportunity presented itself and was acted upon.

An important word, again, about RAT POISON because that’s probably what killed the owl. Rat poison, or rodenticide, has been found in every owl we’ve taken up to WildCare for a necropsy. The owl would have eaten poisoned rats and mice which killed him/her. In the necropsies we’ve had done, the rodenticide was repeatedly found laced throughout the entire critter’s body. So this is probably the condition of this found dead owl. And now, coyotes have it. The poison in one owl probably isn’t enough to kill a coyote, but it can affect them, slowing down their reaction times and dulling their nerves: this is what rodenticide does. For instance, their chances of being hit by a car become greater. Cars are primary coyote killers in urban areas. And another tidbit about scavenging coyotes: they clean up carrion (dead animals) which keeps diseases from spreading — the dead owl at this point was carrion.

To continue. The female coyote grabbed the owl and ran with it to keep it away from the 2nd coyote, with the 2nd coyote at her heels. These two coyotes tease each other with mice which they grab from each other when the other coyote is unaware, but also I’ve seen that when the female finds prey on her own, she’ll keep and bury it just for herself so the other coyote won’t be able to find it. In these ways, coyotes interact with each other and food: teasing, sharing, not sharing.

internet photo

I ran to catch up with the coyotes but missed any more shots for this story. What I saw was the coyote with the owl clenched in her mouth running away from the second coyote as they zig-zagged their way around a community garden, and then, interestingly, a large orange tabby cat, right at their tails, zig-zagging along after them. Hmmm. Another tidbit of information about these two coyotes: they are scared of cats and run from them.

I lost track of them all until the two coyotes emerged with kind-of victory grins, but no owl. Had they buried it, or had the cat claimed it by scaring the coyotes away? I tend to think the lead coyote buried the owl to hide it as I saw her do a couple of days earlier with a road-killed raccoon she had found. But who would she be hiding it from? You can be sure that the interested animals following her know exactly where she cached it.

Both coyotes then climbed the hill above where they had been zig-zagging along. The cat was gone. The second coyote, the one who had followed the one with the owl, went off to hunt a little. But the first coyote plopped herself down within view of where the owl would have been buried and kept her eye on that area — until two dogs appeared and chased her away from her lookout post. But the dogs had no idea what she had been guarding, or even that she had been guarding anything at all. Dogs simply like to pursue coyotes.

My story was going to end there, leaving readers to guess who ultimately got the prized owl, but two days later I found the smelly old owl carcass pretty much still intact, but far from where the two coyotes and cat were seen with it. The coyotes may have simply been using the carcass as a toy, teasing and playing “keep-away” from each other. I wondered why it hadn’t been eaten, and I wondered if coyotes can sense rat poison and that the bird had been ill. I don’t know the answer, but since no coyotes were around, I took the opportunity to bag the carcass and dispose of it into a trash bin, to keep our coyotes safe from the high possibility of rat poison. The time had passed when a necropsy could have been accurately performed.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cindie
    Jul 07, 2019 @ 20:30:22

    Hi Janet! That is a beautiful story, full of adventure, mystery, and sorrow. Thank you. I am wondering if there is a place/way to bury poisoned animals (return them to the soil) so they can properly decompose without harming scavengers? I work a lot with dead and dying animals, and it feels unnatural for them to be in a plastic bag in a trash can? Just a thought. Planting a seed. If we lived closer to each other I would offer to do this for you. Although I am only a hour away. XO

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Jul 07, 2019 @ 21:41:44

      Hi Cindi —

      Glad you liked the story!

      Your question is a good one. I feared it would be found again, but I really could have buried it deeply enough to prevent discovery. Next time. Thanks for the suggestion! Janet

  2. Hilary Cole
    Jul 08, 2019 @ 08:38:31

    Hi Janet … What a lovely and interesting story. The way that you have written it, makes it very easy to visualise.
    Rat poison is so dangerous to other animals, exactly for the reasons you have stated. I was pleased to read that the coyotes hadn’t eaten the owl after all.. maybe they can sense the poison? At least they are still enjoying themselves ..

    Look forward to your next post…

    Thanks
    Hilary 😊

    Reply

  3. ASH
    Jul 08, 2019 @ 19:18:29

    Enlightening
    YIP-yip Hooray!

    Reply

  4. NeitherHereNorThere
    Jul 14, 2019 @ 17:33:08

    So enjoyed reading this narrative slice. Written as if it mattered, as it does. A life is a string of stories. We are not alone on this faltering planet. Sometimes we get photos, but so rarely whole episodes of other animal’s lives. Thank you, Janet.

    Reply

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