Coyote country can be a rough, cruel world

Coyotes are tough survivors but even so, it's still a challenging life for songdogs and other wildlife in the western United States.
Coyote country can be a rough, cruel world

You have to admire the coyote. It’s a true survivor. Not only has it survived the all-out war placed on it throughout the 20th century, it also has leapfrogged beyond its traditional boundaries to homestead throughout North America.

That’s a true survivor and pioneer. Besides being adaptable to a variety of ever-changing habitats, coyotes have adaptable diets. They can switch from fresh meat to fresh fruit and dumpster dive for leftovers — literally. They also can find an easy meal whether they live in the outback or outskirts of town. They don’t mind scavenging a meal and regardless of the peril an animal may find itself in, they don’t have second thoughts about dining as dinner looks on.

I was reminded of that this winter more than ever during my late-winter hunts and spring hikes for shed antlers. Most of my zip code had a tough winter with feet of snow that continues to pile up as I type this blog.

This elk was caught in a fence and eaten by coyotes. (Photo: Mark Kayser)

Day by day deer have been succumbing to the stress of winter. Some simply tip over and die, as I’ve found in my hay shed. Others are so weak that a pair of coyotes has little trouble in taking them down for a fresh steak or liver pate. Quite a few deer are so weak that they can’t even clear a five-wire fence. In the failed leap they get hung up or tangled in the wire. This leaves them bawling for help, and in the process, calling coyotes from nearby hideouts.

While coyote hunting with Heart Spear Outfitters on a Hornady-hosted hunt we came across several gruesome circumstances like this in central Wyoming. One buck hung up in a fence was so fresh it was obvious the coyotes had dined on it while the buck was still alive. In fact, as we stumbled across the crime scene, my hunting partner, Neal Emery from Hornady, was able to get a bead on a coyote slowed by a bloated belly. His 6.5 PRC tipped over the fence-line scrounger.

Late in the winter my calling success fell off. That’s not exactly a news headline, but it was a bit unusual because of the amount of snow that was still on the ground. I thought about the situation over and over again, and I think I came to a conclusion. No doubt increased predator hunting success had educated some of the local coyotes, but could it also have been the fact they just weren’t that hungry?

Many animals, such as this mule deer buck, simply die from the stress of winter. It's part of the cycle of life but never enjoyable to see. (Photo: Mark Kayser)

While shed antler hunting the past few weeks it was almost too common to walk over a ridge and find another dead deer. On one 50-acre horse pasture I found no less than four dead deer and all had been ravaged by coyotes. And deer weren’t the only unlucky ungulates in my zip code. In one 400-yard stretch of walking along a mountain fence I found three young elk tangled in the wire. All were likely eaten alive as they tried to escape from an impossible steel and predator situation.

Mother Nature is cruel. I saw that firsthand this winter. She’s also clever, and has bestowed the coyote with the title of survivor. You have to admire that title, regardless of what you think of coyotes.

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