Friday, July 22, 2011

The Coyote Cache

Reconyx cameras are picture taking machines.  After getting the chance to work with these cameras....which I had to acquire through blood, sweat and's hard to go back to other brands.  These cameras are part of a research project that I've alluded to in the past (see Anatomy of a Camera Trapping Project, posted on March 22, 2011). 

One of the reasons a Reconyx camera is so much fun, is that it can fire off up to 10 pictures like a fully automatic rifle every time its triggered.  For that reason, it's possible to catch some interesting behavior (without the need for video).

One of the reasons why they are sort of a drag, however, is that they are very expensive.  And after recently running afoul of camera thieves, the thought of loosing one of these cameras is too much to bear! example of interesting behavior caught by a Reconyx:

A Coyote (Canis latrans) caching food.  Right in front of the camera, no less!  I can't really tell what the prey is...small enough to be a bird, squirrel, rabbit, etc..

Unfortunately for our wiley canine, the scavengers will not allow him his spoils.  It's not long before an opposum shows up digging around where the cache is (see background).  A raccoon also lumbers along to get a free meal, but is denied by the ornery little marsupial.

Notes on Coyote Caching.

Caching of food has been reported for Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes; Macdonald, 1976).  Information on caching behavior in Coyotes is fairly uncommon, although the behavior has been recognized in Coyotes for some time.  For example, Murie (1940) reports an observation of two coyotes attempting to hide food caches from ravens, and Young and Jackson (1951) also make mention of it.  Yet...some of the most detailed information on caching behavior in Coyotes comes from captive individuals.  Observations of captive eastern coyotes indicates that dominant male individuals do most (78%) of the food caching in a social group (Way and Carbal 2009), a phenomenon also observed by Phillips et al. (1991).

So, there is still a lot to learn about this behavior in wild Coyotes.

I'm just happy we actually caught it on our camera!

Literature Cited:

Macdonald, D.W. 1976. Food caching by red foxes and some other carnivores. Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie 42:170-185.

Murie, A., 1940. Ecology of the coyote of the Yellowstone.  US Government Printing Office.  Public Domain (pp 34-35). NOTE: I have not read this document, but found this reference here.

Phillips, D.P., J. Ryon, W. Danilchuk, and J.C. Fentress. 1991. Food caching in captive coyotes: stereotypy of action sequence and spatial distribution of cache sites. Canadian Journal of Psychology 45:83-91.

Way, J.G., and R.D. Cabral. 2010. Effects of hierarchy rank on caching frequency in a captive Coywolf (Eastern Coyote) Canis latrans x lycoan, pack.  Canadian Field Naturalist 123: 173-175.

Young, S.P., and H.H.T. Jackson. 1951. The clever coyote. The Stackpole Company, Harrisburg, PA.


  1. Wow, I had no idea that coyotes cached food. I'm going to follow up some of your references - that's really cool, especially that you caught it on camera together with the opossum stealing it.

    I've managed to work out a deal to get Reconyx cams at cost. You might already have a similar deal but feel free to ask me about it if you are interested. I love the rapid response time of the Reconyx cams but, I agree, the thought of one being stolen is almost too much to bear.

  2. Hi KB!

    I'll say it again, it's better to be lucky than smart. We happened to get the cam in just the right spot and got these amazing pictures!

    If you happen to find any resources other than the ones I came across during my lit. search, I'd love to know about them!

    I'll be contacting you about the Reconyx at cost...

  3. Great catch on the Coyote. I didn't know they cached food either.

  4. Nice set. The Reconyx may not be high-qual, but they definitely fire fast and often. I love making flipbook vids out of the shots I get with mine.