I recently realized how much my blogging focused on the more attractive aspects of nature. What a shame! Any true naturalist worth the label will spend as much time picking through scat and vomit, let alone investigating carcasses, as they will admiring the mimetic properties of certain moths or the varied glories of warbler songs.
Nature isn’t always pretty. In fact, it’s often full of things people find horrifying or disgusting. To appreciate it all—the good and the bad—is a sign of a true naturalist. Because discoveries and knowledge can be found in both the beautiful and the terrible. I would just as readily show a dead animal or a parasitized live animal as I would a slithering snake in good health. Yet I haven’t shown much of the bad. So now it’s time to fix that.
In the deep coastal woods that define the Dagger Point Trail of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, I came upon a fresh bit of evidence that something had been suffering from an upset stomach.
The whole mass was about the size of two fists. That’s a lot of grass. Given how much whole grass there was, it seems most likely to have been a canid. And given the location, that means a coyote (Canis latrans).
Research on canids eating grass has resulted in an interesting truth: how they eat it determines what happens next. If they nibble and chew the grass, it goes down like everything else and is processed normally; this seems to be a way of augmenting their diet (adding roughage as it were). But when they gulp it down—swallow the grass whole—it becomes their syrup of ipecac, essentially acting as an emetic (something that induces vomiting).
Digging through the wet pile revealed nothing more than grass with some twigs and some dead leaves. A few bits might have been bone and a few might have been fur, but honestly there was too little of the non-grass stuff to make heads or tails of. Well, that and it was all glued together with saliva and gastric juices that melded it all into a sort of turf stew. I suppose the coyote in question had suffered from an upset stomach long enough to have nothing else to throw up except the grass it ate to cure its ailment.
It’s fascinating to realize canine species learn this emetic trick and use it when necessary. Most people associate it with dogs since that’s the only experience they’ll have with it, but it’s obvious their genetic cousins also practice this home remedy to cure tummy problems.
OK, I understand if you need something to cleanse your visual and mental palates after that, so here’s a great egret (Ardea alba) to leave you with a better taste in your brain.
Like the coyote in question, I hope you feel better now.