Coyotes are becoming more comfortable in urban areas, as they take advantage of the abundant food there. With this in mind, do coyotes eat possums or other small animals when they are in urban places?
Since they love preying on domestic cats and rodents, it seems like a possum would be a suitable meal for a coyote. But it’s not a very common one.
Table of Contents
- Coyotes Will Eat Possums, But Not Often
- Some Possums Are At High Risk Of Coyote Predation
- Possums Release Unpleasant Smells As Defense
- Possums Can Bite And Lunge When Threatened
- Will Possums Attract Coyotes?
- Do Coyotes Eat Raccoons?
- Final Thoughts
Coyotes Will Eat Possums, But Not Often
As a predator itself, the possum has teeth and claws that it can use to defend itself if attacked. They have a few predators, including coyotes, but they aren’t the easiest prey to take down.
Coyotes are predators that will go after the easiest food around.
in rural areas, that usually means small rodents, chickens, insects, and fruit. In urban areas, their diet also involves a lot of pet food and some domestic cats.
Possums are not a huge part of their diet, likely because they will put up more of a fight than other prey options like squirrels.
They also spend a lot of time in trees, which makes them less accessible to coyotes, because coyotes are not good tree climbers.
But possums must come down from trees to hunt for their own food, which is when a coyote gets the chance to eat one. And coyotes will often eat roadkill.
As slow-moving creatures, possums are often hit by cars. A coyote passing by a dead possum would likely eat what’s left of the carcass.
Some Possums Are At High Risk Of Coyote Predation
One study in Kansas found that the largest cause of mortality for ten possums was predation by coyotes. Possums may be at higher risk of being eaten by a coyote in certain areas and seasons.
When other food sources are limited, for example during cold seasons, coyotes may prey on possums more often. In another study from the University of Kansas, coyotes ate them from late winter to early spring but did not eat them in the summer, when other food is abundant.
As with most coyote prey, it’s the young or injured ones that are most often preyed on, since they’re easier to kill.
Since they are such slow animals, with their fastest speed being 4 miles per hour, you would think possums are easy targets. But they also have several strategies to defend themselves against predators like coyotes.
Possums Release Unpleasant Smells As Defense
When possums are frightened, they pull out the most famous trick up their sleeve: playing dead. But coyotes often scavenge for dead animals, so what makes this effective?
When possums “play dead”, they have actually fainted and are unconscious. Their body then releases a smell that is disgusting enough to deter some predators from making a meal out of them.
The coyote attacked purely out of territorial behavior and did not bother eating the possum even while it was in her jaws.
So, possums are not always the perfect meal. The coyote protecting her pups was probably not in need of more food. Or she was deterred by the putrid smell the possum released.
Possums Can Bite And Lunge When Threatened
As predators themselves, possums have a set of 50 sharp teeth that they expose when they hiss. This can intimidate coyotes, who are usually looking for the easiest meal they can get. Coyotes are intelligent enough to know that a bite from a possum could hurt.
As seen in this footage of a coyote stealing a possum’s prey, coyotes are sometimes nervous around possums. This coyote was bold enough to snag its food but was scared off when the possum lunged at it.
But at the end of the day, coyotes are larger, faster, and stronger than possums, so if an easy opportunity to kill one presents itself, they will likely take it.
Will Possums Attract Coyotes?
Although possums get predated on by coyotes, they are not a coyote’s favorite meal. There are many other things in both urban and rural areas.
for example, food that was left outside, rodents, fruit, and livestock – that are more likely to lure coyotes in.
If you want to use a possum as a coyote bait, you may have better luck with deer or rabbit meat. But if prey availability in the area is scarce, they may be attracted by the smell of any meat, including possum.
Do Coyotes Eat Raccoons?
Along with possums, coyotes will also prey on raccoons if they get the chance. However, male raccoons are usually large enough to avoid being attacked and eaten by coyotes.
Coyotes are a major predator of possums, but possums do not form a large part of the coyote’s diet. Coyotes are usually more attracted to food sources that are easier to find and kill. But it all depends on how hungry and desperate that coyote is!