Meet “Hunter”: Gold Medalist in High Airborne Pouncing

Coyotes are as individual, unique and different in their competencies as are people: for instance, not every coyote is endowed with the same pouncing ability, or has perfected that skill to the extent this fellow has. He consistently gives stellar leaping performances, day after day after day.

All of the following photos are of that single coyote I have named “Hunter”.  His exceptional skill consists of ease in springing up high, aiming, and then either diving directly down with an added end-bounce, or first sailing through the air for a few feet before his dive. He has eliminated all the extraneous movements which might make another coyote look more clumsy or awkward at times. I’m mesmerized each time I watch him. And usually his only reward is an itsy bitsy little field mouse in the end. I’ve come to believe he’s not in it for the reward, he just seems to love springing up and sailing energetically and efficiently through the air — and that’s probably why he’s so good at it.

Press on each of the photo groups to see them enlarged, and watch the video above which I’ve slowed down so you can appreciate his every move.





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!

I asked a very good friend if he thought this video might be too long for viewers. This is what he said:

“It is wonderful, & beautiful — particularly the sound, and the length, which both are perfect — nature is slow… those digitalkids & iphonephreaks who believe they live in a soundbyte world, don’t — there are entire worlds out there, surrounding them and containing them and of which they are a tiny miniscule and unimportant part, which move far more slowly — Nature is one of those, Geology moves far more slowly even than that — Astral events, the stars, move both far more slowly and sometimes a whole lot faster, than they do — let the slowness here, decorated so wonderfully by that chirping-birds & airplane soundtrack, remind them of their own relativity in all of that”.

This video is long, at 5:51 minutes. The most interesting parts are the tiptoeing at 1:10, the series of pounces where she caves in the underground tunnels of her prey at 1:44, and then the furious digging and moving of ground cover at 2:17. She exposes her prey by this digging and grabs it at 3:28 and then eats it. A young female shows how adept she is at her hunting routine:

Here is a breakdown of what is occurring:

  • To begin with, patiently, she stands there, super alert, watching and listening, triangulating her ears from side to side, and nodding her head back and forth to exactly and precisely locate her prey by sound.
  • At 1:10 she tiptoes, ever so carefully so that her prey may not hear her — a little bit closer
  • Soon thereafter, at 1:44 she tenses, getting ready to leap, backs up a little bit and then springs up and down into several pounces, landing hard on her forepaws with a series of  “punches” meant to knock in her prey’s intricate tunneling system underground. This prevents the gopher from escaping through that tunnel network. This lasts until 2:05.
  • At 2:17 she begins furiously digging and digging, both deep into the ground to break through into the tunnels, and on the surface to move the ground-cover out of the way, all the while continually keeping a wary eye on her surroundings, including me and folks walking in back of me.
  • At 3:28 she catches her prey, disables it, and tosses it to the ground. Then, by looking around, she assesses how safe it is to eat right it then and there. She decides it’s not so safe, so she runs off with it.
  • At 3:36 until the end of the video, she eats her prey, tearing into several more manageable eating portions and chewing these down to swallowable sizes — it takes a while, and then she calmly walks off. Note that there is no waste — she eats every bit of her prey: entrails, muscles, fur and bones.

Hunting and Hiding: Coyote behavior

This coyote was on to something, so I sat and watched. In fact, as I came upon the scene, there were two coyotes out, but one slithered off right away. This one must have been hungry. The “flying leap-nose-dive” is always the most exciting part of the hunt and I was able to see three of these fabulous springy leaps in a row. This coyote is a young one — under a year old. That may be why it took three leaps to disable its prey. I only caught the last and least of the jumps with my camera. The hunt and meal together lasted only four minutes. By the manner in which the coyote kept licking its chops when all was done, I could tell that it must have been a good catch.

After eating, the coyote more or less kept itself hidden from view. From its hiding places it kept an eye on me. If I had not seen the hunting beforehand, the coyote would have been difficult to spot — it stood so very  still “behind” cover. Within a short time it trotted off to the underbrush.

Fateful Encounters: Life and Death

Very occasionally I’ve seen the spoils of coyote encounters — pelts and skeletons and viscera that were left behind after a coyote, or several coyotes, had finished feasting. I have added these to show additional indirect signs of coyotes in an area — and to show more activities they engage in — activities that mean survival for them. What should be brought to mind is the interconnectedness and dependence of one life on another. An unexpected chance encounter at dawn between two creatures on different levels of the food chain might bring death to one, but it will enliven the other. So that one can live, the other must die. We tend to sympathize with the underdog, but nature sees things differently.

I show carcasses of a possum, a skunk, a raccoon, two semi-digested voles or mice that seem to have passed right through the digestive system, and yes, a cat skull. You can’t be sure how the cat died — older cats are vulnerable as prey to coyotes but also to raccoons — we have many more raccoons than we have coyotes. The raccoon remains were by a roadway, so probably it was hit by a car and already carrion by the time the coyote found it. Most adult raccoons can keep a coyote at bay.

There is a gopher and a squirrel being held by a coyote. These are eaten whole, for the most part — no spoils to be found. Then I have photos of a gopher hole where the coyote dug hard and deep to get its prey.

Wow, Look What’s Right Here: Coyote behavior

I watched this fellow laze around and then, while still “all lazed up” concentrate on what was right there at the tip of his nose. He remained in the same spot for some time, in his relaxed position, not getting up, tweaking his ears, turning his head, looking at the ground right at his nose tip. Then he got up and dug for about a minute before pouncing on his treasure. Too bad. He didn’t get anything — it was probably just too easy of a find!! Total duration of the “hunt” was about eight minutes: seven minutes of “triangulation” while remaining lying down, 40 seconds of digging, and then the leap and a few seconds of further digging before the resignation stance which showed defeat.