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Coyotes on Ice

Yellowstone National Park (between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt).

Early in the morning of March 15, a large grizzly bear extracted a semi-frozen bison carcass from an ice-covered pond. The young bison may have fallen through the ice during winter.

Later in the morning after the grizzly left the scene. Three coyotes crossed a beautiful, ice-covered pond and it appeared as if they were partially suspended above the dream-like, light-blue-cyan pond ice. When they arrived at the pile of bloody flesh, each took turns feasting and watching for other intruders. Coyotes (Canis latrans) are intelligent and adaptable.

Ravens were already at the scene and tried their best to feast on the well-preserved bison flesh, despite the coyote's dominance. The Common Raven are opportunistic feeders and consume a variety of foods. While the coyotes were feeding on the carcass, they appeared to be annoyed with these large, black birds, with thick bills, and shaggy hackles on the throat. The coyotes would chase and harass these large birds, and the birds would echo with a hoarse croaking “craaak" and "kloouu-klokouuu" call.

A flock of ravens is a good indicator of a carcass. Ravens are larger than crows and they have larger, thicker bills, and larger flight wings and wedge-shaped tails.

Eventually, the coyotes wandered off, presumably because their bellies were full. Some of the Ravens continued to consume the bison’s flesh and others may have created a cache of food nearby.

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