What Do Coyotes Eat?

Coyotes are smart and cunning — and, like a college kid, they won't ignore a meal. So, what do coyotes eat?

What Do Coyotes Eat?

If a coyote believes it can snatch a turkey it'll do it in a heartbeat. That's a big meal. Turkey hunters often see coyotes coming into a setup after calling.

If you hunt coyotes or have them around your property, chances are good you've spotted some poop while you're out and about. That may make you pause and ask what do coyotes eat?

Studying poop is a good way to keep up with coyotes. Sounds weird but it's true. You don't have to poke around in it to glean much insight, either, although if that's not something that bothers you then knock yourself out. Get a stick and break up the poop, or smush it with your boot.

What will you find? That depends on the time of year.

Coyotes are omnivores, meaning they eat meat and plants. Like most wildlife they go after the best available food sources throughout the year. On a tract I hunt and visit regularly, the coyote poop I've seen in winter doesn't have much hair in it. They've thinned pretty heavily whatever small game is available, partly due to lack of decent small game habitat in the pastures. Whatever is there likely gets whacked. I haven't figured out yet what else the coyotes are eating, but it's enough to keep them around.

Spring and summer is when they're helping provide food for pups, so almost anything is possible. Protein, most likely, to help their young grow stronger. Mice and voles, squirrels, grasshoppers, young birds and emerging plants with berries all are possibilities. Around ponds or lakes, they'll nab fish that get washed on banks in floods, baby ducks or shorebirds.

One lake I fish occasionally is overpopulated with stunted crappie, which are not beneficial for smaller lakes or ponds. They reproduce prolifically and eat other things bass and bluegills feed on, as well as bass and bluegill fry. So whenever I catch a crappie, I toss it on the bank. It doesn't last more than a day or two, thanks to coyotes (or other fish-eating animals).

Once late summer and autumn arrive, other wildlife have bred and had their young. Rabbits, squirrels, turkeys, deer, feral pigs and just about anything else they can catch is a possibility. Even grasshoppers. Whitetail fawns are a heavy target whether your deer population is high or low.

The Quality Deer Management Association revealed a multi-state study showing fawns are hit hard by coyotes. Songdogs also will scavenge dead animals, too, including roadkill whitetails. The study didn't differentiate between the two, although via hair diameter analysis it showed that adult deer showed up in scat year-round and fawns (hair) in about seven months of the year. Needless to say, deer comprise the biggest targets for coyotes.

In late autumn, coyote scat likely will reveal seeds from berries. If you have persimmon trees on your property, coyotes gobble up the tasty, ripe fruits once they've fallen. You'll find the flat, brown seeds in the poop — a telltale sign they're taking advantage of the sugary treats. Part of that is it's one the best available foods, and likely another reason is they're packing on some weight for winter.

Coyotes won't pass up a chance at a dog or cat, either. Numerous stories abound each year about coyotes in cities or suburban neighborhoods swiping a pet, with advice to keep them indoors and put away food dishes. Leave out some kibble for Fido and, depending on how brazen a coyote may be, that food could be feeding more than your trusted pet.


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