Coyotes had taken down a young buck and created a little dining hall. This is the second deer killed by coyotes that I’ve found this year. The first was less than an hour old when I walked up on it and the coyote was busy eating. Based on the condition of the grass and carcass and knowing that this wasn’t here when I walked through three weeks ago, I’m guessing the deer was killed about two weeks ago. The spinal cord is intact and the spine is still flexible. The Indian Grass had already dried and turned brown before being mashed down and the fescue was just starting to stand back up.
A pair or small family group of coyotes will claim a territory of six to ten square miles. They’ll rotate their hunting area within that territory, working each area heavily before moving on. This allows the area to repopulate with prey before being hunted again. The rotation seems to bring coyotes around to us about every three years. A few years ago, I found about a dozen deer skeletons. Maybe this was the work of the same coyote family. Coyotes feeding on a kill generally maintain a clean site. If this had been the work of dogs, the grass would have been torn up and there would have been signs of dried entrails and hide around the clearing.
The lower jaw was removed from the skull and picked clean. Not much of this deer was left uneaten. It’s amazing how little was left. Most of the carcasses I find have more hide left behind.
With the front of the skull missing, this skull reminds me of a Texas Jackalope. One of the signs of a healthy ecosystem is the presence of top of the line predators. It’s nice to see that our largest wild predator is having this type of relationship with the largest wild herbivore. Young coyotes are taught by their parents to identify prey items. Coyotes feeding on deer are not likely to be feeding on a farmer’s livestock.