Snakes Are Not For Eating

I have seen coyotes pick up dead snakes before, snakes that had already been killed either by them or some other animal, but today I actually watched as a coyote caught a live snake. The coyote was quick and exact in its hunting techniques: it only took one plunge before the coyote had the snake. I watched intently, thinking that this was a “fresh” snake, and might be eaten, but that was not to be. I don’t think that coyotes eat snakes if they don’t have to.

The coyote put down the snake, rolled on it, and played with it, tossing it high in the air. The episode took a little over a minute. I learned that an animal does not have to have decomposed for a coyote to want to roll on it — maybe snakes are strong smelling to begin with. When the coyote was through with these activities, it moved on to making its rounds. Interestingly, the coyote returned to this snake about 40 minutes later, searching for it and picking it up just for a second before dropping it and continuing on the path. Ten minutes later I came back to find the snake was gone: it had probably been picked up by either a red-tail hawk or a raven which are seen constantly flying above.

A Snake Is Found: Coyote behavior


This coyote jumped down from a rock and seemed to be headed off. I went to look over the ledge where the coyote had disappeared, but it was right there, in a depression. The coyote looked up at me so I quickly backed off. After a minute, thinking the coyote had gone by now, I again peeked over the ledge. The coyote had something long in its mouth: it was a snake! I thought that maybe the snake would be eaten, but it was not. Instead, it was carried a short distance and dropped. The coyote must not have liked the taste because after dropping the snake, it licked its mouth with displeasure. Then it rolled on the snake several times, picking it up during the last roll. The coyote then stood up, dropped the snake, and left!

I can’t be sure if the coyote killed this snake while it was out of my sight, or if the snake had been killed at an earlier time and left there to be “rolled on as needed”. I have seen a coyote pick up an already dead lizard and then lower itself onto the smelly carcass for a “perfume bath.”

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