A Coyote and Black-billed Magpies Scavenging to Survive

/, Birds, Black-billed Magpies, Coyotes, Davis County, Utah/A Coyote and Black-billed Magpies Scavenging to Survive

A Coyote and Black-billed Magpies scavengingA Coyote and Black-billed Magpies scavenging – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 640, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

One year ago today I observed and photographed a Coyote and Black-billed Magpies scavenging a deer carcass to survive on Antelope Island State Park. The snow was deep, the temperatures were low and the coyote and magpies had found the dead deer which helped them to survive another harsh winter day.

Scavengers are an important part of of the food web and they remove the carrion from the ecosystem which helps to break down the organic material and recycle it back into the ecosystem as nutrients. Black-billed Magpies are known scavengers and will often come to the carrion in large numbers. Coyotes will scavenge because they are opportunistic and carrion is an easy meal for them. I saw two different coyotes at this deer carcass a year ago today and way out in the distance I also saw one laying down and resting in the snow. That coyote may have already fed on the deer carcass or it simply might have been patiently waiting its turn to feed.

Far too often scavengers and predators are killed out of ignorance, fear or superstition. But we need them. We will always need them as long as there is life on this planet.

This image may seem gross or repulsive to some but I think it represents nature and the will to live very well.

Life is good. Surviving to live another day is good too.



  1. Stephen leonard December 30, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Mia, besides an incredible glimps of nature and the need for scavangers to add balance to everything, this photos has great balance with the mag pies and coyote…. It’s almost like they posed for you. Beautiful shot.

  2. Mia McPherson December 30, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    I wanted to thank you all for your comments on this picture and my post. So glad to see others appreciate carrion eaters! We should be living in harmony with nature.

  3. Elephant's Child December 29, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Hooray for carrion feeders. Who do a more important job than most of our species.

  4. Utahbooklover December 29, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Great image. Reminds me of the vulture crisis in India not long ago that resulted in double the population of feral dogs among other problems. Read more at save-vultures.org

  5. Molly December 29, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments. Thank you for a beautiful image of the wild.

  6. Bob Mcpherson December 29, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Delightful Image, Mia. So strong with your commentary. Go Wild!!

  7. John Fox "Omnitrigger" December 29, 2015 at 10:51 am


    It has been a while and I wanted to stop by and wish you a happy new year! Your incredible work and naturalist work ethic has inspired me countless times the past few years. You are one of the reasons I love to photograph wildlife and nature these days. If you ever get a chance, it would be an honor for you to take a look at my work nowadays. I always really appreciated your comments on Natureshare, but I don’t get on there much nowadays. https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

    John Fox “Omnitrigger”

    • Mia McPherson December 30, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      John, I am glad if I have inspired you, we all inspire each other.

      I pretty much left NatureShare after a person there infringed one of my images, colorized it and posted it as their own. To see my image posted by someone else was a bit shocking.

      Glad we can connect here on my site and I will take a look at your photos.

  8. Catherine December 29, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Two of my favorites: coyotes and magpies! This is beautiful in composition and its reality. Nature shouldn’t be sugarcoated.

  9. Patty Chadwick December 29, 2015 at 8:39 am

    This is a beautiful image, Mia…love both the subjects and the artistic aspect…the composition, is especially pleasing. It seems that fewer and fewer people are currious about or understand much of anything in the natural world, seduced instead by that small, electronic, rectangle of plastic in the palm of their hands…or, for example, taking “selfies”…their focus inward, on themselves, oblivious of the world around them…

    • Elephant's Child December 29, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      I understand that the French call selfies ‘braggies’. Which sounds about right to me – despite many of the subjects not having a lot to brag about.

  10. Cindy December 29, 2015 at 8:24 am

    My thoughts exactly, Mia. Man used to live in harmony with nature, now we are the predators upsetting the balance. I am always saddened when people talk of crows, wolves, coyotes as bad when they fit into the net of life perfectly. Our lives have become too sanitized, removed from nature and yet we all long for wildness. Thank you for always informing us and delighting our eyes. We need you. )

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