Kangaroo Apple or Poroporo

I watched a coyote forage in one of these bushes. When the coyote left, we went up to examine the berries which I had never seen before. I took a tiny taste, and my friend gulped down a couple to help us determine what they were: the flavor was bitter with a tad of sweet. When I got home, I couldn’t find the plant on the internet, so I turned to my Nextdoor site and posed the question there. They indeed came up with what it was: Kangaroo apple, as it’s called in Australia, or poroporo, as it is called in New Zealand are native to those areas, but have been naturalized into the Bay Area and can be found throughout San Francisco. AND, we should not have eaten them as they are poisonous — they belong to the nightshade family! Yikes!
Once I had the name of the plant, I looked up more about it. Interestingly, it’s flowers are hermaphroditic (having both male and female organs). They are blue-violet or white in color, and a little over an inch in size. Flowers are followed by berries of about the same size. The berries, it turns out, are poisonous only while green — they become edible once they turn orange.  Whew!
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The next day I went back to see if the coyote would appear again: I wasn’t sure it was eating the fruit or possibly foraging for snails or slugs on the plant. I wondered why a coyote might eat toxic material. As I watched, I saw that the coyote eating only the orange colored fruit! Maybe the green ones were unsavory and bitter as well as toxic? Smart coyote!

 

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.

 

Fatherhood

Two youngsters dart in for food from Dad — the two very active coyotes in the video are pups who are approaching, but not quite yet, 6 months of age.  Dad regurgitates the food — it looks like whole voles — and the two pups feed in a frenzy. They continue to insert their snouts in his mouth in an attempt to get more food — it’s like an assault!  He gently and repeatedly clasps their snouts in his mouth: Is he indicating that there’s no more food to be had, and/or is he confirming his dominance?  Note at 42 seconds that a pup crosses Dad’s path by going under him!

It appears that Dad is the one to approach for food like this these days. I have not seen this set of pups approach their mother recently in this fashion. Rather, she sits in the distance and watches all the activity — safe from the onslaught!

How Much Food Does a Coyote Eat In A Day?

the menu at a wildlife rehabilitation center

the menu at a wildlife rehabilitation center: this menu will be fed at least twice a day and dry chow is always available

Coyotes are opportunistic eaters: they eat what they can find when they need to. However they’ll concentrate on obtaining their favorite foods, when available, which include freshly caught gophers, voles, squirrels, mice, rats, opossums. They eat roadkill and other carrion. In areas where there are deer, they scavenge for deer hit by cars and they can take down the infirm and younger ungulates. And, yes, the occasional cat has been eaten when their regular food sources are scarce.  They eat birds as big as chickens and as small as sparrows. But they are not totally carnivores. They eat fruit, nuts and bugs, including crickets, peanuts and watermelon. And they will nibble at human leftovers from picnic areas or the street, though this is clearly not a big part of their diet as shown by coyote scat analysis. Sandwich baggies have even been found in their scat!

Although they find and kill snakes and lizards, I have not seen them eat these. They prefer rolling on them to absorb their acrid odors, but might eat them when other food is scarce.

They’ll expend a lot of effort digging up what turns out to be a mole, only to reject it. There must be something about the flavor they don’t like. They roll on them, as they do with reptiles, to absorb the odors, and, again, when no other food is around to satisfy their hunger, they will eat them as a last resort.

I’ve wondered how *much* a coyote eats in a day, or over several days.  I’ve seen three full gophers caught, chomped and gulped down, all in a row. I thought that was a lot of food. I’ve seen coyotes eat a raccoon carcass, but only part way at any one time. They returned on successive days to finish it off. It appears that they stopped eating each day when they had had their fill.

The image above is the coyote — and juvenile coyote — menu offered to injured coyotes at an animal rehabilitation center. This amount of food is obviously enough to sustain a coyote comfortably when it is not active. An active coyote would need much more than this, I would think, as would a female during gestation and while nursing young pups. The menu above looks scrumptious! There’s more variety than most dogs get. Maybe when times are tough coyotes should learn to check into their local wildlife rehabilitation center for a gourmet meal!!