I recently spent part of a morning with a young coyote who appeared to be just old enough to be out hunting on its own. What was strange to me was her willingness to let me walk in her vicinity as she scavenged along a roadside. This usually indicates the animal is ill or possibly rabid. But, I believe this was not the case.
Coyotes in these parts are often heard but not seen since they are targets for cattle ranchers. Coyotes are known to prey on calves and have become problems, as a result, for stockmen. Thus, I felt very lucky to be able to be as close as I was to this animal and spend time observing her hunting grasshoppers and whatever other edibles she could find. From her condition, I suspect that meals have been few and far between since being weaned.
She looks to be very thin, almost emaciated. She has a fair number of ticks on her, but her eyes are clear and not showing the green mucus that comes with distemper. Nor, was she showing the staggering or salivating that indicates rabies. Other than being thin, she appeared healthy.
She covered about a half-mile during the time I spent with her and seemed oblivious to all the automobile traffic. I whistled a time or two when she was looking away and was able to verify she wasn’t deaf, just intent on finding food.
Nature can appear very cruel by human standards, but it points out, albeit harshly, that ecosystems have limits on the resources available to support its members. Exceed the numbers of coyotes that the system can support, starvation and death are the possible outcomes. This youngster’s willingness to eat whatever it could find or catch will hopefully keep her alive.