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Yellowstone Coyotes – Within Photo Range

A Yellowstone Coyote in Haydn Valley. Coyotes are sometimes mistakenly identified as wolves by people.
A Yellowstone Coyote in Haydn Valley. Coyotes are sometimes mistakenly identified as wolves by people.

September 25-28, 2017

When wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park more than twenty years ago, coyotes were present in large numbers. They are competitors; and since then, wolves have dominated their shared niche by reducing the coyote population by roughly fifty per-cent. It is well known that coyotes keep their distance from wolf packs.

We watched a couple of coyotes barely out of sight of a distant pack of wolves that had retreated with full stomachs from their kill. All the while, the two coyotes looked over their shoulders, and even momentarily scouted from a nearby mound to locate the pack and confirm they were not sneaking up upon them. So, if conditions are right, coyotes will still move in on wolf-killed prey and feed on the remains despite the risks. Because wolves are intolerant of coyotes, they will kill them rather than compete with them.

Yellowstone coyotes will tolerate nearby vehicles, unlike coyotes in our area where they are hunted from roadsides.
Yellowstone coyotes will tolerate nearby vehicles, unlike coyotes in our area where they are hunted from roadsides.

The coyotes in Yellowstone that we could photograph appeared to have figured out it is safer to hunt close to peopled areas, and distant from wolf packs. We happened upon a pair of them just off a main road in Haydn Valley. A younger coyote closest to us hunted for voles below the crusted snow. 

Ears are perked as the coyote, light-footed, creeps along listening for prey beneath the snow.
Ears are perked as the coyote, light-footed, creeps along listening for prey beneath the snow. 

 

It could hear its targeted prey under the snow, and pinpointing it by sound only, it blindly pounced on it. 

With regular accuracy, the coyote caught several voles within just a few minutes of one another.
With regular accuracy, the coyote caught several voles within just a few minutes of one another. 

Within just a few minutes, this coyote succeeded in catching prey several times. 

Multiple catches of voles in just a few minutes – hunting by ear!

One can imagine how small mammal populations would be hit hard by an over-population of coyotes. 

An older coyote moved along a nearby stream; it seemed warier of us but not particularly intimidated. 

Coyotes may appear wary, but they do not appear to fear people like hunted coyotes might.
  Coyotes may appear wary, but they do not appear to fear people like hunted coyotes might.

A couple of days later, we saw what we believe was the same older coyote of the previous shoot. She was actively hunting for rodents; again, she pounced at the sound of its prey beneath the crusty snow. 

Another day, another vole hunt in Haydn Valley.
Another day, another vole hunt in Haydn Valley.
With remarkable hearing, an exact location is pinpointed as the coyote silently pounces and captures another vole.
With remarkable hearing, an exact location is pinpointed as the coyote silently pounces and captures another vole.
Locating the vole beneath the snow by sound only, the coyote pounces to capture its prey.
Locating the vole beneath the snow by sound only, the coyote pounces to capture its prey.

One comment

  1. Kathy Oakley says:

    Fascinating! That coyote with its ears perked forward looks so much like our corgi getting ready to run (always unsuccessfully) at a squirrel. She needs to better channel her Inner Coyote!

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