Betcha didn’t know coyotes eat their vegetables…

It’s true, sort of. Coyotes are predators by preference, scavengers when the opportunity presents, but very adaptable in practice. During lean times in winter you’ll start seeing piles of undigested juniper berries that obviously came out of the south end of a northbound something, and when I first got here those piles perplexed me. What kind of animal eats vegetable matter it can’t digest?

I asked around, and finally from the lips of an experienced coyote hunter (there was still a bounty on them when I first moved here, which is a major reason they’re so polite around humans and human-owned stuff even though their numbers immediately rebounded when the bounty was removed) I learned that the animals depositing the piles of juniper berries were indeed underfed coyotes. He thought they ate the berries to fill their stomachs so they wouldn’t be distracted from hunting for real food by hunger pain.

And he might be right – but since then I’ve seen plentiful evidence that at least some coyotes eat juniper berries in season because they like them.

More below the fold, to spare anybody whose idea of a good time doesn’t involve looking at photographs of excrement.

Notice that there’s nothing underfed about this ‘yote. The berries and associated juniper bits are mixed with plenty of ordinary scat – a little wetter than normal for a coyote but we’re still in this year’s very extended rainy season. And that makes sense, because right now we’re up to our collective armpits in rabbits, rats and mice which means there’s absolutely no excuse for a healthy coyote to be on a starvation diet.

Ergo, this meat eater filled its stomach with undigestible vegetable matter because it felt like it. And it didn’t bother to hide the evidence from its kin. Hey, I won’t judge if they don’t.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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12 Responses to Betcha didn’t know coyotes eat their vegetables…

  1. Jean says:

    Seen those around here. Mostly on the upper end of the place we live. I thought they might be raccoon scat. Utah still has a bounty on coyotes because we grow lotsa sheep here. However, the Dept o’ wildlife has decided that to claim the bounty that you need to submit location coodinates from the stupidphone. I don’t need their 50 bucks that bad.

  2. boynsea says:

    The things I learn here. Had no idea coyote would eat berries.
    So, don’t name your cat ‘Juniper”?

    I’ve seen coyote walk (not run) right down the center line of a city street, in broad daylight, acting like he owned the place. Bold and brash, or rabid, or maybe cat hunting.
    I think it’s the Navajo Dine’ who call them “the trickster”. Apt.

  3. Fred says:

    In east Texas I’ve seen coyote scat with persimmon seeds in it. A friend of mine got up one morning and discovered his melon patch had been wrecked and the culprits were clearly coyotes. They left lots of tracks. Primarily carnivore but not above eating sweet fruits.

  4. Came for the hermit blogging, stayed for the poo pics.

  5. slipkid76 says:

    They do the same in Oklahoma as they do in East Texas. Seen it for decades.

  6. John Venlet says:

    Wolf scat shows the same proclivities, Joel, though they seem to prefer blueberries.

  7. Goober says:

    The yotes up here in Idaho are constantly eating berries. I guess I thought it was a pretty well known phenomenon. The old timers told me that it was a vitamins and minerals thing, like how elk will eat dirt that has minerals that they need, etc. They don’t eat them for the calories, but rather for something that they would be deficient in if they didn’t. It’s like a yote multi-vitamin.

    But that’s just what the old timers say, I’ve never researched it.

  8. jrg says:

    Yes, coyotes are known to eat their veggies down in south Texas as well. Watermelon seeds when they are in season can be found in their scat. I don’t think they eat prickly pear fruit, but someone will likely disagree with that statement.

  9. Tsgt Joe says:

    My dog eats raspberries, well he eats about anything and the box it came in. I have to fence off my cucumbers, tomatoes and cantaloupe to keep him out. He only has 1 back leg but I’ve seen him jump up on a 30” raised bed since he’d eaten all the tomatoes he could reach from the ground. He’s quite the little omnivore.

  10. RCPete says:

    I cut down the junipers on my place, but there’s still lots on the neighbor’s ranch. I get seedlings next to the pine trees from bird droppings. Where it gets interesting is late fall when the berries ferment and the birds get drunk. Had a few passed out on our front porch.

  11. Ben says:

    “ Came for the hermit blogging, stayed for the poo pics.” Somehow, this got me thinking. Do we really need so many words to describe the same thing? Scat, poo, shit, feces, stool, crap, excrement; and there’s probably dozens more if I bothered to look it up!

  12. Ruth says:

    I have video of coyotes here eating fallen apples, and had at least once incident of a coyote stealing a ripe cantaloupe from the garden. So yup!

To the stake with the heretic!