I don’t think very many of us give thought to wild animals getting ill or feeling ill or aging. I once watched a coyote squint as it looked into the distance. I wondered if the coyote’s vision was getting blurry — like humans when they age. I wondered if their aging vision could benefit from the things we humans have so ingeniously created for ourselves: lasik or glasses?

Anyway, coyotes do get ill and they do feel bad sometimes. Today I watched a case of indigestion exacerbated by basking in an intense hot sun. I can relate to this, because when I have eaten a heavy meal and then stayed out in the direct sun for too long, I have felt that meal become sluggish rather than being digested easily.

So after two hours of basking in the intense sun and obviously having a blast doing so, the coyote moved off to a shady spot where the look in its eyes conveyed that same intestinal discomfort that we all have felt at times.  Of course, I didn’t know what was going on and wouldn’t until this sequence of events was over.

Soon, the coyote got up slowly and sluggishly wandered down a hillside where it began yanking at the tallest strands of grass and ingesting them. After several minutes of eating grasses, the coyote began to heave, billowing its stomach in and out until it’s mouth opened wide and out came an astonishing mass of undigested food. It must have astonished the coyote, too, because it stayed there looking at the pile, and then sniffed it over carefully. Finally, it tried — unsuccessfully — to “bury” the mess by using its nose to push old grasses over the pile. Then it walked slowly away.

I was able to make out that it was an entire gopher, still intact but somewhat decomposed. Gophers in this area can get pretty close to a full pound in weight. Coyotes eat gophers, not by tearing them apart, but by crunching the bones so that the entire animal can fit down it’s throat. My theory is that this huge meal and the heat of the sun made for difficult digestion, which in turn caused a nauseating feeling and then the self-medication. I’ve seen regurgitation before, but not with all the detail I saw this time. The coyote wandered off and out of sight, but not until two more stops were made for more grasses.

Bad Food?

Today I was photographing this little coyote when I noticed what looked like “heaving” as if it were going to upchuck. Sure enough, I had my camera right on the little fellow when whatever the problem was came up and out. The coyote looked disgusted at what came up, it sat down to rest a minute and then wandered out of sight. I was alone now. This was my opportunity to see what had “come up”. I went over to the location, but decided that it really wasn’t my “thing” to analyze the stuff, so I took several photos instead.

Then, something interesting happened. AS I was taking the photos, who should I see coming purposefully towards me, but the mother coyote. She was headed directly towards me with an intent gaze. I decided to move off quickly — my immediate impression was that the upchucked stuff I had been looking at was not to be interfered with. I watched as the mother went right up to the spot I had left. She spent some time there sniffing it out intensely. She must have seen the little coyote spit it up. Otherwise could she have been drawn to the area in the first place by the smell? Was she trying to figure out why this piece of food was bad? Did it really smell bad? Don’t coyotes avoid bad food? After it had all been checked out to her satisfaction, she trotted off to a rock on which she curled up. I didn’t see her go back to the spit up area again.

I’ve noticed several dead rodents on the ground — maybe four in the last few days. They were all soggy, but entirely whole. One was a rat. Could these have drowned in the recent rains we’ve been having — someone told me this was not unusual. Or could one have been poisoned by humans? Coyotes, after all, eat carrion. I’m wondering if the coyote ate a dead rodent that was bad? No way to tell without analyzing the stuff, and I’m not up to that.