Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hedonist Coyote

These are probably some of my favorite Coyote (Canis latrans) video clips that I've been lucky enough to get with a camera trap.

The majority of the pictures and video clips that I have of Coyotes are fleeting....mostly I have quick shots, or blurry shots of an individual before it was spooked and ran off.

Not the case here.  In fact, this Coyote appears to be luxuriating in the fact that he can roll around in a bit of urine.  Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) urine to be precise.

I'm obviously anthropomorphizing, but he almost appears to dive in with great relish.....and expresses little obvious concern for any potential threats.  This is not at all what I'm used to from Coyotes on my cameras....

He also gets alittle mouthy on one of the stakes that I use to hold scent.... the past, I've gotten pictures that appear to indicate Coyotes show some hefty aversion to the red LEDs on the camera traps (see here and here).

This individual shows none of that (particularly in the second clip below, where he must be getting a face-full of red LED).  I've been camera trapping this site for over a year now.  Perhaps that's enough time for them to fully acclimate.  Also...the fact that we are not too ridiculously far out of the mating season (January/February) may have something to do with it.

Also of interest:  there is a similar scent stake on the left of our field of view that is holding Coyote urine.


Once satisfied, Wil E. decides to move along in search of other opportunities.

I've posted on this type of "scent rolling" behavior in the past (involving a Gray Fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus) from North Carolina.  I also included a brief review of existing literature that I could find on the topic, which I'll re-post at the bottom.

Roughly half an hour later, a trio of rather concerned White-tails cautiously come along to check things out.
If they are the group I've seen most of the summer/fall, it's a doe and her twin boys.....

The reason why canines roll in scented-stuff is not fully understood or agreed upon.  Although a plethora of anecdotal and pseudo-scientific explanations for this behavior can be found on many websites (usually associated with training domestic dogs), I have not found one that backs their claims up with hard data, or references to scientific literature.

Mech and Boitani (Wolves: Behavior, Ecology & Conservation, 2003) summarize research that has been done on wolves to help better understand this phenomenon.  But even the work they cite, although giving good information about what type of scent-stimuli wolves will choose to roll in, does not clearly indicate why they do it! 

The general possibilities proposed to explain this behaior include: (1) "familiarization with novel odors or change in odors", (2) "strong attraction or aversion to particular odors", (3) "concealing one's own scent with something more pungent" (an obvious advantage for a hunting carnivor), and (4) "making oneself more attractive by applying novel odor".  An interesting study on African wild dogs found that females will roll in the urine of the lead male in a pack they are trying to join.  This may increase their chances of acceptance becuase they are coated in a scent familiar to the pack they are hoping to get in with (Frame et al. 1979).  It has also been proposed that individuals roll in specific scents to bring back information to others in their packs.  For example, bringing back information about the age of a carcass found to others in the pack.....

Literature Cited and Further Readings on Scent-Rubbing in Carnivores:

Frame, L.H., J.R. Malcolm, G.W. Frame, and H. van Lawick. 1979. Social organization of African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) on the Serengeti Plains, Tanzania 1967-1978. Zoological Tierpsychology 50:225-249. (note: I could not find the above article, and was not able to read my comments on this study are based on what Mech and Boitani report)

Reiger, I. 1979. Scent rubbing in carnivores. Carnivores 2:17-25.


  1. Great post and pics! That scent-rolling questions seems like there are many opportunities for research still available. Have you ever used a scent lure of an animal that isn't typically found in the region? For example, a porcupine scent where porcupines aren't normally found? It would be interesting to see how your subjects react to such an unusual substance.

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for reading!

    Actually, I've never done what you suggested above. Good idea, though. I'll have to give it a try sometime!

  3. Nice images and post. I bet you will get some interesting blog hits with that title.... :)

  4. Ha! You're probably right on that one, JVN!

  5. I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this but I have found that canines like to roll in beaver castor. I'm not sure why but canines and also bobcat will rub on beaver castor when it is applied to the side of a stump or tree about 12- 18" off the ground. Don.

    1. Hey Don!

      Thanks for reading the blog and your comment.

      Seems as if Beaver Cator is a great all around attractant for many critters. Others have touted it's usefulness as a lure to me as well!