Apples, Blackberries and Pears, Oh My!

This fella found quite a smorgasbord this morning, all within the space of about 4 square feet! He must have been in coyote heaven. Right after he had picked up and eaten some voles without expending much effort, he walked just a couple of feet to a patch of fruit. There were blackberries, apples and pears either on the vines and trees which he could reach, or just lying around on the ground where they had fallen. I watched him eat one and then another and then another and . . .

He ate for a long time. He ate standing most of the time, but for a while he ate lying down in the cool ivy under the fruit trees. He crunched through the apples and pears the way we would, chomping on mouthfuls at a time, and sometimes taking bites that were too big so that part of the fruit fell to the ground. Then he got up and walked away. There was still plenty of fruit left lying on the ground by the time he departed, so I guess he had his fill!

As he ate, he kept his eyes up, high above himself, and on the lookout constantly. I wondered what was going on above him!? I never did figure it out for sure. It crossed my mind that at one time he may have been hit by falling fruit — a la Chicken Little. I have seen gum nuts fall off of Eucalyptus trees which startled coyotes enough to make them run. Or, it could have been a waving tree branch which he was wary of. Coyotes appear not to like things moving over themselves.

 

It’s The Winter Solstice!

Coyote youngster with thick neck and breast fur for the winter

Coyote youngster with thick fur for the winter

Winter’s darkest day is today — it’s the shortest day of the year and the beginning of Winter!

In case you’ve forgotten, solstice means “stationary sun.”  The sun stands still at 5:11 pm on December 21, which is today. The winter solstice north of the equator always occurs on or around December 21st, give or take 24 hours. The US will get only 9 and 1/2 hours of light this day! Up until the winter solstice, the sun moves southward a little each day, and the days become shorter. As the sun approaches the solstice, this southward march slows down, and at the solstice the sun stops its movement south and pauses, motionless: that will occur at 5:11pm for us! Then after the solstice, it will reverse itself and move a little more northward in the sky each day, and the days will become incrementally longer again.

How does this affect coyotes?

Food chains all begin with plant growth. Plants require plenty of daylight to thrive. Fewer daylight hours mean plants cease or slow down their growth at this time of year. So there are fewer growing plants to feed the voles and gophers, and therefore fewer voles and gophers to feed the coyotes — these are their favorite foods in San Francisco. Animals cope with winter in a number of ways: by migrating, hibernating or adapting. Coyotes adapt.

One of the things they adapt is their diets, by eating other foods which are available at this time of year: foods such as pine seeds, and bark or insects in the bark as shown in the two photos below, which I thought was pretty interesting! They are known as “opportunistic” eaters, which means they can eat just about anything. Coyotes will still eat voles and gophers — but because there are fewer of them, they must supplement their diets at this time of year.

It may be because gophers and voles are not so plentiful in the fields that coyote youngsters are out more alone or in pairs now, rather than foraging all together with the entire family, as they did earlier in the year. Coyote youngsters may also be out alone more because they are feeling much more self-reliant and independent at this time of their lives, after all, the next step in their development will be dispersal.

Note that coyote coats are at their fullest at this time of year. Coyote fur can be over 4 inches in length and can make them look much bigger than they look during the summer when their fur is at its shortest and sparsest.

Mom Eats Grass, by Charles Wood

In this video clip Mom is pulling green shoots off a tall grass type plant and eating them. I watched Mom continuously for ten minutes after she ate that particular grass and she did not regurgitate. However, grass eating by coyotes is also known to be very often followed by the coyote soon regurgitating the grass and much else. In fact, when we see a coyote or our domestic dogs eat grass, we can be almost certain that they will soon vomit. Intrigued, I looked for a study on coyote diet. In Chicago, grass species accounted for from five to ten percent of food items found in coyote scat.

Some amount of the grass species in coyote scat must get there from the stomach contents of some of their prey. Also, some grasses eaten by coyotes never make it to their scat. Mom’s green shoots of grass assuredly left her body. I expect they later exited from her rear because they did not come up during the ten minutes I had her continuously in my sight. In my own dogs, I’ve noticed that when they eat grass leaves from my lawn, they do throw up. However, when they eat long, tender, wispy green, and succulent stems of uncut grass in my local park, my dogs don’t. My dogs love those shoots, pulling on their leashes to make sure we visit the long grass; and later pulling against their leashes when, finally bored, I begin to move them away. Mom too, seems to be enjoying her greens as much as my dogs do. Perhaps she knows not to eat too much grass leaf in order to be sure that the parts of the grass she does eat will indeed stay down.

The Grass Is Always Greener . . .

. . . . and, if you can get to it, you might as well go for it.

It was really dark out, but you wouldn’t know it from the photos — I have an ISO of 6400 which helps compensate for the darkness. The coyote begins eating grass on this side of the fence after trekking for a very short time. In fact, he may have come to this location specifically for the grass which is brown in most places of the park. It must not have tasted very good. The grass may have looked greener on the other side of the fence, because the coyote approaches the hole in the fence — it looks like he knows it well — and slithers through it. Once on the other side of the fence, the coyote continues eating, now the greener grass. When he’s eaten what he needs to, he sits down and heaves a number of times, then stands up and belches everything out. After one more nibble of grass, he heads towards the hole in the fence, and again scoots through it to continue his trekking! This little episode lasted a total of 7 minutes.

The coyote must have had an upset stomach. Just like dogs, they cleanse their insides by eating grass and then regurgite the grass, along with all the rest of the contents of their stomachs.

The hole in the fence was only about 5″ in diameter — it looked much too small for a coyote to pass through — more like a raccoon passageway. We have to remember how lean and scrawny these animals really are. In addition, the wires of the cyclone fence are bendable, and the coyote may have been able to push the wires enough to get through. Then again, maybe they indeed can fit through a 5″ hole!

Hunting Togetherness

These two seem to be in each others’ faces. If they were to catch a vole or gopher, I wonder if they would share it? Towards the end of the video here, one coyote runs off because dogs are approaching. The other coyote didn’t seem to want to give up the possibility of a catch! However, it, too, bolted, the minute the dog actually saw it and began to chase — right after I cut off the video.

Scouting Around A Log

A coyote stops at a log to scout for a possible meal. The scrutiny was intense and thorough, but yielded nothing! I didn’t start the video until most of the exploring was already over, but you can see from the stills I took before the video that the coyote was all over the log. I didn’t see any digging, just poking and sniffing, so I assume it was scent and not sound that drew the coyote to the log.

Tip Toe!

Hunting takes planning and in this case that plan included moving ever so slowly, and ever so carefully and ever so softly. The coyote had been sitting watching one spot for several minutes, then got up and tip-toed to a better spot where it stood quietly and calmly for a long time — sometimes staring at the ground and turning its head, and sometimes just looking into the distance. Nothing came of it — the coyote was not rewarded for its quietness and patience.  I’m posting just a short clip with the careful tip-toe. I cut out the rest because I know the coyote has more patience in waiting for its meal than we might have in observing it!

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