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Diet and Feeding Ecology of
Coyotes in Western Virginia
By David Montague
Historic Range
Historic Range – circa 1900
Eastern Range Expansion
Current Range: 2011
Are they different?
Western Coyote:
Eastern Coyote:
Potential hybridization?
Photo: Joseph Hinton
What We Know
• Extremely adaptable!
• Expanding in range and
population
• Increasing concerns for
human-coyote conflicts
• Few studies in the
eastern U.S. relative to
west
• No large-scale studies
of coyotes in Virginia
Unknown in Virginia:
• Population density and abundance
Unknown in Virginia:
• Population density and abundance
• Diet
Unknown in Virginia:
• Population density and abundance
• Diet
• Interaction with other predators
Unknown in Virginia:
•
•
•
•
Population density and abundance
Diet
Interaction with other predators
Effect on prey species
Unknown in Virginia:
•
•
•
•
•
Population density and abundance
Diet
Interaction with other predators
Effect on prey species
Disease ecology
Unknown in Virginia:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Population density and abundance
Diet
Interaction with other predators
Effect on prey species
Disease ecology
Habitat use and movement
Unknown in Virginia:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Population density and abundance
Diet
Interaction with other predators
Effect on prey species
Disease ecology
Habitat use and movement
Home range size and territoriality
Unknown in Virginia:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Population density and abundance
Diet
Interaction with other predators
Effect on prey species
Disease Ecology
Habitat use and movement
Home range size and territoriality
Study Area
Counties of:
Augusta
Bath
Highland
Rockingham
Land Ownership:
George Washington NF
Little North Mtn WMA
Highland WMA
Warms Springs Mtn Preserve (TNC)
Private Land
Study Area
Reasons:
• Early coyote establishment
• Perceived lower deer density
• Possibility for additive mortality?
Objective 1:
Determine seasonal dietary patterns of
coyotes and black bears in western Virginia
and assess the potential for interspecific
competition in the predation of white-tailed
deer.
Methods for Objective 1:
• Scat collection!
• Transects on dirt roads
and trails
• Range of habitats
including forest and
agricultural
• Monthly visits to
transects
• Total: 80 km of transect
• Scat ID by morphology
and DNA
Methods for Objective 1:
• Lab procedures:
– Air dry for storage
– Soak and wash through a
series of sieves
– Dissect for hair, teeth,
bones, claws, seeds, etc.
Objective 1 Data Analysis:
• Techniques following
Lemons et al. (2010)
• Scat contents treated as
detection/nonID
detection
16
17
• Occupancy format
• Modeled in Programs 18
MARK and PRESENCE
Deer Veg
Mammal
Bird
Other
1
0
1
0
1
1
1
0
1
1
0
1
1
0
0
Objective 2:
Estimate density of prey species in western
Virginia and relate prey density to rate of
predation by coyotes.
Potential Prey:
Based on the literature…
Common prey:
–
–
–
–
Small mammals
Soft mast
Deer
Mid-sized mammals
Less common prey:
–
–
–
–
Insects
Birds/eggs
Livestock
Crops
Potential Prey:
Based on the literature…
Common prey:
–
–
–
–
Small mammals
Soft mast
Deer
Mid-sized mammals
Less common prey:
–
–
–
–
Insects
Birds/eggs
Livestock
Crops
Varies considerably!!!
Small Mammals
Small Mammals
• Capture, markrecapture
• Trapping with Sherman
live traps
• Mark with ear tags
• Compare habitats/sites
• Four trap sessions per
year
• 5 days per session
Small Mammals
8
8
10 m
Soft Mast
Soft Mast
• Sampling for % cover
and % mast
production
• 200 meter
permanent, lineintercept transects
• Monthly visits May –
October
White-tailed Deer
White-tailed Deer
• Distance sampling
• Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR)
– Nighttime sampling
– Increased detections
– May reduce flushing
© 2011 FLIR Systems.
White-tailed Deer
• Distance sampling
• Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR)
– Nighttime sampling
– Increased detections
– May reduce flushing
© 2011 FLIR Systems.
Photo: Daryl Ratajczak
Mid-sized Mammals
• Remote camera
trapping
• Determines habitat use,
not population density
Objective 2 Data Analysis:
• Small mammals
– Program MARK
– Covariates: habitat, season, succession, etc.
• Soft mast
• Deer
– Program DISTANCE
– Must have minimum number of detections
• Mid-sized mammals
– Program MARK or PRESENCE
– Detection/non-detection format
Objective 3:
Determine the seasonal prevalence of
intestinal parasites of coyotes in western
Virginia and the relationship between
parasite burden and diet.
Objective 3 Methods:
Field Methods:
– Scat collection along diet
transects
– One week intervals
– 4 times per year
© CDC Image Library
Lab Methods:
– Fecal flotation
Data Analysis:
– Modeled in MARK like
diet
– Parasite species richness
– Prevalence
– Comparisons with diet,
sex, habitat, site, etc.
Expected Outcomes
• Mitigation of human-coyote conflicts
– Additive deer mortality?
– Livestock depredations
• Improved management of coyotes and prey
• Better understanding of habitat treatment
effects on coyotes and prey
• Prevention of zoonotic and epizootic events
Potential Challenges
• Too much scat!!!
– Requires subsampling
• Misidentification of scats
• Problems with genetic ID
• Poor correlation of scat location and habitat
use
• Parasite sample contamination from
environment
Acknowledgements
Committee:
Dr. Marcella Kelly
Dr. Jim Parkhurst
Dr. Kathy Alexander
Dr. Anne Zajac
Mike Fies (VDGIF)
Special thanks:
Dr. Carol Croy (USFS)
Marek Smith (TNC)
Chad Fox (APHIS)
Lauren Mastro (APHIS)
Dr. Lisette Waits
WHAPA Lab
Questions?
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