How Coyotes Quench Their Thirst in the Dry Desert

Excerpt from Valley 101: Great Big Book of Life, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published May 7, 2004.)

Q: I live in the East Valley near Usery Mountain Park. There are a lot of coyotes that hang out in my neighborhood. However, I can’t figure out where they get their water. As far as I know, any canals or rivers are miles away, the washes are dry, and all the pools are fenced off. So where do they get their water?

CoyoteA: I wonder if this person is a newcomer. He didn’t say. Sounds a bit like it to me, though.

I’m pretty sure tomorrow’s question is from a newcomer, too.

Wait till you hear it.

Newcomer or not, I think this is a pretty interesting question, mostly because I think coyotes are pretty interesting animals.

We all know that as the cities expand and the desert shrinks and the drought continues we have more coyotes coming into urban areas.

But I read something interesting while checking out this water thing: Most coyotes will live out their lives without ever seeing a human being.

I wonder if that’s true.

If it is, that’s pretty cool.

So, about water. First of all, like a lot of desert animals, coyotes can make do without or with very little for longer than you might think. Kit foxes can thrive with no “free” water at all. They get what they need from the stuff they eat.

And while it might seem like all the pools are fenced, there are plenty of dog water bowls, irrigation ditches, stock tanks, natural seeps, park ponds and golf-course water hazards around if you know where to look for them, and coyotes know where to look for them.

And everything a coyote eats — from mice to your cat — has some moisture in it, and coyotes are adapted to make the most of it.

I didn’t know this before: In the deserts of Arizona, Mexico and California there are certain gourds called buffalo gourds or calabazillas or loco melons. But they are also known as coyote gourds because coyotes dine on them, not just for the food but also for the moisture they hold.

The flesh of these gourds is said to taste awful, but Native Americans used to eat the seeds.

Last but not least, coyotes also are known to get water by digging “wells,” especially around mesquite trees, which have very deep taproots.

So I wouldn’t worry about the coyotes dying of thirst if I were you. They’re coyotes. They know what they’re doing.

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