Five Coyotes Attempt To Take Down A Deer On Antelope Island

In almost ten years of regular trips to Antelope Island (roughly 600-700 trips total) I’ve never had a wildlife encounter like this one!

And I still haven’t.

Photographer Darol Wintle was fortunate enough to have documented this drama with his 400mm lens and he sent me some of his images, a detailed description of the event and permission to use both on my blog. I’ll try to splice his (often paraphrased) descriptions under the appropriate images and be as accurate as possible given the somewhat cumbersome conditions of composing this post. Based on their file numbers all photos are presented in the order they were taken.

  • Note to viewers: there are no gory photos in this post but obviously it was a traumatic experience for the doe.

 

Copyright Darol Wintle – Image Used By Permission

Four days ago Darol was driving south toward Garr Ranch when he saw a yearling doe running northbound at full-tilt and soon spotted this coyote with its ears back and chasing after her from far behind. A quick U-turn on the road put Darol going in the right direction but now he had to photograph the running coyote out his passenger side window while still driving – not an easy trick with any lens but made much more difficult with a 400mm.

Almost immediately he noticed a second coyote involved in the chase. The coyotes were gaining on the doe but after about a half-mile Darol lost them all behind an outcropping.

 

Copyright Darol Wintle – Image Used By Permission

When he found them again the doe was standing in a defensive struggle as the coyotes nipped at her and she responded appropriately.

 

 

Copyright Darol Wintle – Image Used By Permission

This lasted for 10-15 minutes.

 

 

Copyright Darol Wintle – Image Used By Permission

At times she tried to escape her tormentors…

 

 

Copyright Darol Wintle – Image Used By Permission

but given the opportunity she also went on the offensive with foot strikes and head butts.

 

 

Copyright Darol Wintle – Image Used By Permission

Eventually a total of five coyotes would join in the team effort to bring the doe down.

 

 

Copyright Darol Wintle – Image Used By Permission

When the doe made the mistake of running out onto the flats several times she encountered patches of ice which she slipped on and that provided the coyotes the opportunity they needed. Several nipped at her hind legs and one…

 

 

Copyright Darol Wintle – Image Used By Permission

made repeated attempts at her throat. She was able to get up and run again…

 

 

Copyright Darol Wintle – Image Used By Permission

but she soon encountered another patch of ice and went down once more. That’s when a fifth coyote joined in and this scene played out for over 45 minutes. At times Darol could see the doe’s tongue hanging out from sheer exhaustion as the coyotes circled and nipped and she struck back with her hooves and head butts whenever she could.

But the coyotes were exhausted too and soon one of them moved away and laid down to rest. After a while 4 of the 5 coyotes left the area leaving a single one of them with the doe who tried to keep her from running off. The coyotes had inflicted some damage to the doe’s hind end as Darol could see some blood there through his lens at a distance of at least 300 yards.

At this point Darol had followed the chase for an hour and 20 minutes but he had an appointment to keep and had to leave the island so we don’t really know how this turned out.

There were no good guys or bad guys in this little drama. Life is difficult for both predator and prey and all players were doing what they needed to in order to survive.

Big thanks to Darol Wintle for providing the images and the descriptions.

Ron

PS – Facebook friend Jami Bollschweiler reports that earlier this week she saw a doe in this same area with “these types of wounds”. Perhaps it’s the same animal and she survived this encounter.

Addendum: A comment on this post by Susan Stone made me recall this coyote I photographed on the island several years ago. Its upper jaw had been severely injured and now I’m wondering if the injury might have been inflicted by the sharp hooves of a mule deer (or perhaps a pronghorn) defending itself. A mule deer is a helluva long ways from defenseless.

The life of a predator is never an easy one…

 

 

 

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37 comments to Five Coyotes Attempt To Take Down A Deer On Antelope Island

  • Bill Maciejko

    Thanks for this perspective. So many people think of predators as easy-living killing machines when in fact they have a very tough role to play, and most fail and die before maturity. As someone said a long time ago: “grass doesn’t fight back and it doesn’t run away.” In my part of the world its White-tails and Coyotes, but I’ve seen more damage done to deer by dogs allowed to run loose than I have from any natural predator.

  • Levi V.

    Amazing series!
    For some reason, a while ago I would have felt very bad for the deer. But now, I realize it’s all part of nature. Somehow I just don’t feel too bad for the deer unless I really put myself into it’s “shoes” and imagine what it would be like to be it. Maybe that’s a selfish way of thinking about it, but it’s how I am.
    P.S. Tried to comment earlier today, but the comments were closed.

    • Levi V.

      And also, didn’t see the addendum until now. I even have the hoof of a deer (hair and all) I found up in the hills near here. Couldn’t tell if it was a mountain lion or coyote kill, because I didn’t find the rest of the carcass (thick, spiky brush; yuccas, bushes, foxtails). But whatever it was, it must’ve been one strong animal, because those hooves sure don’t look fun to mess with, and especially not paired with a couple hundred pounds of muscle and, for bucks, antler.

      • Good point, Levi. Deer can definitely be formidable opponents or prey.

        Comments were closed for a few minutes this morning while I was fiddling with some WordPress settings. Sorry about that.

  • Marty K

    Tough and important series to see. Please thank Darol for sharing the photographs and thank you for the descriptions. Very interesting comments today as well.

    I’m torn because I do feel for both predator and prey. Our local “urban” coyotes look a little taller and lankier — and a lot scruffier.

    Of course, my mind also jumps immediately to metaphor. Sigh. :/

  • Stephen Clayson

    Ron and Darol,

    Thanks for the pictures. The circle of life. We all live it in one way or another. I didn’t know for which team to cheer: Doe or Coyotes. We all know it goes on but it is traumatic to watch. I visited Africa a few years ago and this is what we would see each and every day. Hakuna Matata. (I had to look that one up on the Internet!)

    Thanks,

    Stephen

  • Life is indeed tough. For the predators and the prey.
    An amazing series, but my heart aches for all the players. The hungry and the hunted. Yes, I am a wimp.

  • Patty Chadwick

    I always feel sorry for the prey…even as I munch on a hamburger, chicken leg or piece of fish….

  • April Olson

    Wonderful series thank you for sharing Darol’s great photo capture.

  • Porcupine

    Excellent set of photos Ron. I enjoyed the post very much. This brings home, again, for me what I dislike about human hunting. While this deer certainly suffered far more than she would have if shot by a rifle, coyotes and wolves kill the weak and slow leaving the deer herd stronger and healthier. High tech humans kill the biggest and the strongest leaving the deer herd weaker, younger and less healthy.
    Thanks for a good post.
    Porcupine

  • Susan Stone

    I am amazed that Darol was able to capture all this action. I like both coyotes and deer, so I hope both came out of this experience okay. It has never before occurred to me that the hunters would become as tired as the prey. Something new to think about today.

    • Susan, “the chase” is often almost as hard on the predator as it is on the prey. Several years ago I photographed a coyote on the island with a severely injured upper jaw. This may very well be how it happened.

  • Patty Chadwick

    I’m surprised the “other four” left…it must have been very, very frustrating for Darol to have to leave at such critical time…so often something interferes with seeing, experiencing, capturing something unusual and amazing. Very frustrating!

  • Wow! Thank you Darol and Ron. Amazing and powerful sequence showing nature at work.

  • Marvin Miller

    During a hard winter several years ago, my dad had a small herd of deer move into his brush patch where they were feeding on his haystack. One morning when he went out to feed his cows, he saw that all of the deer were in the coral with his cattle and thought that was odd. While he was feeding the cattle the deer ran out and he could see that some had their back legs injured from bites. A little later in the day he saw a pack of dogs heading down his lane towards the brush patch. He grabbed his shotgun and headed out toward the barnyard and just as he got there, the deer all came running past him and jumped into the coral with the cattle, followed by the pack of dogs. He was able to dispatch a couple of the dogs and the rest ran off. A herd of cattle will surround and attack a dog or other canine if they get too close, and the deer somehow knew they could find safety among the cattle.

  • Jerry Ellison

    Nature isn’t always beautiful sunsets and graceful wildlife, it’s survival of the fittest and all creatures have to eat and fight to survive. Often it’s harsh and cruel, but it also creates a necessary balance. This is one of the most amazing sequences I have ever seen. Thanks so much Darol for sharing and Ron for posting.

  • Marina schultz

    I would have chased coyotes off but that’s just me. .. if you saw a coyote with a live owl would you rescue the owl ?? Like from the barbed wire .. ?? They will go off and find something else to eat … you have saved the owls ” Life” but simple just took coyotes dinner away Nature is cruel ,, lots of killing .. of course they have to eat. .. scary thing is a pack of coyotes that bring down a deer will bring down a small person too. Like that young female singer who was out jogging…

    • Nope, I’d make no attempt at rescuing the owl, Marina. In a natural situation I wouldn’t even consider it – not even if it was a Snowy Owl or an eagle of either species.

      An Ivory-billed Woodpecker I might have to think about… 🙂

  • Judy Gusick

    Great series of shots! Mother nature is a B…. for sure. Know it’s how it goes even if it always disturbs me a bit. Wonderful job of documenting the drama.

    • Thanks,Judy. Going in to this post I knew it would make some folks uncomfortable. But nature is what it is and I can’t see ignoring the parts of it that some would prefer not to see. And I agree that Darol did a great job of documenting it.

      As a photographer I’m curious about how many images he took in that 80 minutes. I’ll have to ask him but I’ll bet he has a boatload of culling to do… 🙂

  • Dick Harlow

    WOW!! What a great series! Many thanks to Darol for allowing you to share this set.
    Many thanks.

  • Steven E Hunnicutt

    Enjoy seeing what you have to share each morning. I understand mother nature, but there is so much killing in the world today, that even knowing, I really like waking up and being envious of what you share, it starts my day off on the right foot. Please do not get me wrong about these pictures, just one person view.