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.