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Fauna Series No. 4






Population and Mortality







Other Larger Mammals

Small Mammals


Misc. Diet



Fauna of the National Parks — No. 4
Ecology of the Coyote in the Yellowstone
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GRASSHOPPERS AND CRICKETS: A total of 711 coyote droppings contained grasshoppers, and 123 Mormon crickets. Very often droppings held both forms. These insects are eaten from the time they become available in the summer until November when the cold weather has made them inactive. Many of the droppings were composed of a high percentage of grasshoppers and crickets, very often 100 percent. Even in November fresh droppings had more than 90 percent grasshopper remains. Many contained remains of from 75 to 100 grasshoppers.

On September 25, 1937, I watched three coyotes hunting mice and grasshoppers in the meadows along the Lamar River. Sluggish with cold the insects were not moving. It seemed that the coyotes were finding them by scent. One of the coyotes hunted them for an hour, moving slowly over an area 150 yards across, turning a step or two aside one way or the other to pick up a grasshopper. Each one was given three or four vigorous chews, jaws opening unnecessarily wide, it seemed, for such a tiny morsel. While I watched, an antelope buck came up to me, gave an alarm call, and dashed away, whereupon the coyote near me ran several yards, looking around for danger as he went, but almost immediately turned back to the grasshopper hunting. The latest date on which I watched a coyote hunt grasshoppers was November 6. At this time all grasshoppers were dormant, of course, but the coyote seemed to find many of them.

A coyote I watched hunting grasshoppers at Gibbon Meadows on September 28 had to move quickly to make each catch, for the bright sunshine had brought a return of summer activity to the insects. Sometimes the grasshoppers were caught with the paw, at other times it seemed that they were seized with the jaws. Some were retaken after they had once escaped.

On one occasion 25 grasshoppers were caught in 4 minutes, but others were captured before and after this period.

Grasshoppers and crickets are an important and highly palatable food, or they are eaten in large quantities at times when much other food is available. The lower incidence of crickets in the diet is probably due to more restricted distribution than that of the grasshoppers.

June beetles.—Remains which appeared to be some form of the June beetle were found in 14 droppings. A few of the droppings contained as many as a dozen.

Hibernating flies.—Ranger Gammill told me that he and Ranger Coleman near the Cooke City Ranger Station had observed a coyote track turn to one side and lead over to the bank of a stream. Here they found that the coyote had been eating flies which were hibernating under the bark of a tree branch and on the under side of a rock.

Mormon cricket
Figure 55— Mormon cricket feeding on rush. These, as well as grasshoppers, are relished by the coyote.
Horseshoe, July 6, 1938.


Snakes are not very abundant in the park, but the remains of garter snakes were found in nine droppings.

Fish remains were found in 12 droppings, in several of which only the bones of the head were present. This would indicate that the coyote had found the spot where a fisherman had cleaned his catch. The fish in the diet is no doubt mainly carrion.

Remains of snail shells were found in four droppings. One summer in Jackson Hole O. J. Murie and I found a concentration of snails in the trail and a few feet away two coyote droppings containing many remains of them. They seem to be relished when they can be found.

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