Coyote gets a Gopher

We struck gold one day at Point Reyes recently, when we watched a coyote dramatically dig a gopher out of its hole.

At first the coyote was sniffing around in that canine way, randomly checking out his favorite spots in the grassy field. We were on a broad ridge, a windy ridge, with the Pacific Ocean to our left and Drakes Bay to the right.

He was quite far away, ambling closer.

It was mid-afternoon when the road is fairly busy, we couldn’t just stop and watch. Fortunately there was a pause in traffic, and I was able to stop the car and quickly pull over; the berm was flat and wide and not too soft. There was a large electronic traffic sign on the roadside we could park in front of without impeding traffic or attracting attention.

Other cars whizzed by while we watched the cool and silent drama unfold.

Athena captured these photos from the car’s open window.

We marveled at his lustrous coat, so thick. It was January and he had on his winter coat. Beautiful bushy tail.

It is a sad thing to see wild mammals who have suffered from drought, starvation or injury; visible ribs, wavering gait, ghostly countenance.

This wild mammal was robust and confident.

We had only been watching about five minutes when he found something–he stood tense and alert, engaged. His nose was, literally, to the ground.

Started digging.

He dug so feverishly that soon his front legs were deep inside the hole. Digging, relentless and urgent digging.

The coyote was very aware of us, but had more important things on his mind. We stayed in the car and let him be.

He continued to dig…and then it all stopped. We couldn’t see at first what he was crouched over.

He was bent over something. Then he came out of the hole and lifted his head, gnawed and chomped. We saw a limp, muddy lump between his jaws.

Got a gopher.

It was covered with mud, very black mud, must’ve been deep in the burrow.

Canis latrans are primarily carnivorous and have a wide diet; small, burrowing mammals are one of their common prey. He had probably injured the gopher, trapped it.

The whole event lasted about two minutes.

Native American folklore calls coyote “the trickster.”

And there was something to this, because out of nowhere, just after he finished his last bite, a second coyote appeared.

It was obvious the two of them knew each other, there was no strain, tension or posturing.

As they left us and walked off, our gopher warrior was easily recognizable: he kept licking his chops, reliving his tasty snack.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

70 thoughts on “Coyote gets a Gopher

  1. Amazing pictures and narrative! He looked so healthy and well-fed, no doubt a good hunter. I also enjoyed the picture of the black-tailed deer, a bit different than our white-tails. Having the ocean in the background made a stunning scene.

    • Yes, that photo Athena captured of the deer on the edge of the cliff is a beauty, I’m glad you enjoyed it, Barbara. Always a joy to have you stop by, thank you.

    • Yes, we, too, were happy to see that the coyotes are in good shape and sharp with their hunting skills. My warmest thanks, Eliza, always a pleasure to have you stop by.

  2. What an exciting incident you and Athena managed to capture! Very raw, like the gopher, and, as others have commented, great to see such healthy specimens. Tremendous settings and action.
    Right, itโ€™s lunchtime here, and this hasnโ€™t put me offโ€ฆ
    Thanks, Jet!

  3. Coyotes are like wild dogs, they are abundant also, they were in Georgia also. Here in Florida, we have a black bear, that comes from the forests and when is cold they go to the city and destroy the garbage containers, leaving a whole mess with garbage all over. all my neighbors know about it, they complain to the County, all animals are protected and you can not harm any of them. I’m preparing my backyard to be enclosed maybe in a couple of months from now. I have to remove many trees first. I loved your post, Point Reyes is becoming your favorite, no? Thank you, my friend. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yes, I would think roadrunners would be nearly impossible to catch. Wiley E. Coyote sure had difficulties with them. Wonderful to hear from you, Mick, thanks very much.

    • Yes, Athena’s long lens, Canon 100-400, is definitely capable. Though, as photographers will be, she is always wanting a bigger one, as you no doubt can relate, Michael Stephen. Many thanks.

    • Thanks, Craig. We have to carve out our nature and observing time or it all gets swept away into deadlines. I know you know that very well. I’m glad this post gave you a gentle reminder. Cheers, my friend.

  4. Reading your great story combined with those amazing photos puts me in the
    place where the coyotes roam. I see the eagerness in their eyes to feast on
    one more kill. It makes their day! Great photos, great sights, interesting story!

  5. You can tell by its coat/body shape that coyote is an experienced hunter – what a great behavioral experience to capture! I’m with Tim, we need that skillset up here – maybe they can visit here once a year and keep our gopher/chipmunk population under control. The packs around here focus more on squirrels and other larger “misfits” for nourishment and turn a blind eye to our peskier varmints. Thanks for sharing a wonderful experience.

    • Always a delight, Brian, to have you stop by. I’m really glad I got to share with you the excitement of the masterful coyote and his gopher capture. Thanks for your visit and wonderful comment.

  6. In Colorado, you learn to give coyotes a very wide berth. Make eye contact with them, or camera contact, they will follow you until something else catches their eye. They’re quite excellent hunters in the urban-wildland interface.

    Regarding their “trickster” reputation, that is part of their place in Native American lore. In the Four Corners, they are part of the skinwalker/shapeshifter ‘legend’ (legend for the lack of a better word).

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