Shared Habitat

In our area the chief food of coyotes is lagomorphs (hares, rabbits), small rodents (ground squirrels, gophers, kangaroo rats, meadow mice and voles) insects, nuts, berries and fruit. However,  coyotes (Canis latrans) are very adaptable and will eat whatever is available, including carrion.

Coyotes occasionally kill fawns, lambs and newborn calves, and as a consequence they have been vigorously exterminated in certain areas. Yet these three species show up a very low percentage (averaging around 3%) of the time in the stomachs of coyotes. Of this small percentage, much can be attributed to eating road kills, stillbirths/afterbirths and mountain lion caches. Many ranchers do not allow the killing of coyotes on their property because of the good the coyotes do in removing the much more destructive grass-eating rodents. Still, deer and coyotes are considered predator and prey.

Leonard and I have a “wildlife area” on our property (near Lookout CA, Modoc County) that has not been disturbed for about 40 years. It is a natural area where we watch the wildlife and observe natural plant succession. A couple days ago we walked up there and were delighted to see a hunting coyote. He/she was a big, healthy animal with a dense, sleek coat. The coyote did not see us so we were able to watch it hunt for several minutes. About 50 feet or less from the coyote were five mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) lying in the sagebrush. The deer knew the coyote was there, yet were not alarmed by its presence.

Eventually the coyote did spot Leonard and me and slowly trotted off to the cover of some nearby bitterbrush, where it kept watching us – peeking out occasionally. The deer did not move until we began to walk toward them, and then they only stood up. We walked past the deer and they never moved off.

Granted, there were no newborn fawns in the small group of deer. However, two were small youngsters only born about five months ago. Leonard and I are happy that the coyotes and deer appear to be cohabiting the area set aside for them and other flora and fauna.

Unfortunately, there was a large juniper that prevented me from photographing the coyote and deer in the same frame. From where we stood one or the other was always hidden by the tree. But I did get plenty of pictures separately.

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6 Responses to Shared Habitat

  1. Kevin McKereghan says:

    I’ve got a place at the base of the Warner mountains near new pine creek. I have watched a coyote chase a fawn across our tall grass, only to come blazing back across with mom in hot pursuit. Fawns are frequently stashed in our wild plum grove, and that is the only time I’ve seen a coyote try to take one.

    • gingkochris says:

      Female deer are very protective of their fawns and their kick can be fatal. As I understand, coyotes very quickly learn not to tangle with a mother doe. Near the wild plums orchards near New Pine Creek – I know the general area where you live. Have not been there in years, but I enjoyed the wild plum wine produced by the winery located there.

  2. usermattw says:

    How wonderful to have this nature show right in your back yard!

    • gingkochris says:

      There is always something happening outside our windows. This morning in the bright moonlight I watched barn owls soaring around our yard looking for a meal before heading into the barn for the day.

  3. Jim says:

    I got off my horse in a very isolated juniper/common big sagebrush type and a young coyote pup was hunting (mice, lizards, grasshoppers ??) by approaching sagebrush plants elevating its head then jumping over it. Apparently it was attempting to flush something for lunch. He pass within 10 feet and never noticed the horse or me. I just watched it untill it pass out of view. Never saw any indication that he flushed any critters.

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