Coyotes roam all throughout Yellowstone National Park, even close to people-frequented areas, so it’s highly possible that you’ll see one of these canids, or members of the dog family, on your next park visit. The Yellowstone coyotes are among the biggest in the United States, frequently weighing up to 30 pounds and occasionally growing to 40 pounds. The animal stands roughly two feet tall, making it easily distinguishable from its much larger relative, the gray wolf.
A Coyote’s Hunting Technique is called Mousing
Coyotes travel both by themselves and in groups, eating small mammals like mice, rabbits, pocket gophers, small birds like the grouse and quail, and Uinta ground squirrels. Besides rodents and birds, coyotes will eat insects, fruits and berries, as well as lizards and fish.
When in packs, they’re known to take down larger animals like deer or even elk.
The winter months, in which snow blankets the Yellowstone landscape, can be more difficult for coyotes to hunt its prey, as the small mammals tend to bury themselves in the snow. As a result, coyotes have mastered a unique pouncing technique that they do while mousing in the snow.
Strong diggers with acute hearing and a keen sense of smell, the canids are capable of locating a mouse or gopher far under the snow. If the snow’s top layer is difficult to penetrate, the coyote will then rear up on its hind legs and slam its front paws down on the snow to break through. Once down into the softer snowpack, the coyote will borrow using its nose and front paws until it catches its prey using its sharp teeth.
Which is the Better Mouser? Coyote or Fox?
The proof may be in the spoils.
Yellowstone’s coyotes have also been known to grow accustomed to human food, either by receiving handouts or scavenging in garbage scraps. According the National Park Service, coyotes “can quickly learn bad habits like roadside begging behavior.” Feeding these animals can disrupt the natural ecosystem and lead to dangerous human-animal interactions.