Coyotes and Persimmons

As persimmon fruits (Diospyros virginians) begin to ripen in Georgia in September, their seeds start to commonly appear in coyote scat. Despite the fact that these trees might be few and far between across the landscape, coyotes apparently seek them out and make these fruits a staple of their autumn diet.

Ripe persimmons have a pleasant taste to us, but unripe persimmons are loaded with tannins, which makes them highly astringent and bitter as the tannins bind to natural proteins in the mouth. Try one and taste it for yourself!

Nevertheless, coyotes don’t just wait for persimmons to be at their ripest and brightest color when the bitter taste has diminished, but rather they consume these fruits as soon as they become available. Either the astringency does not bother them or the coyote’s lack of color vision makes it difficult to distinguish ripe from unripe fruit.

The photos above show persimmon fruits in various stages of development as they turn from unripe green to a fully ripe reddish-orange. The trees occur as separate sexes, so only the female trees bear fruit.  Their bark and overall size is similar to that of a dogwood tree.  Also pictured are coyote scats (droppings) containing persimmon seeds, as well as muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia), which are also consumed by coyotes at this time of year.

The Atlanta Coyote Project Could Use Your Help.

If you a) know of persimmon trees in your area, b) want to help us to learn more about how coyotes exploit this resource, and c) own a trail camera, please consider becoming a “citizen scientist” and deploying your camera at a persimmon tree for the next several weeks and let us know what you get.

© 2015 Atlanta Coyote Project