Katie Owens, Seasonal Dietary Composition of the Eastern Coyote (Canis Latrans) on the Berry College Campus in Northwestern Georgia
Faculty Chair: Dr. Tim Gaudin
Coyotes (Canis latrans) have progressively colonized eastern North America following wolf extirpation and the clearing of forests landscapes. The coyote has expanded its geographic range into Georgia during the past 50 years, and its impact as the top predator is potentially influencing community dynamics via competition and/or predation. Few studies have examined coyote food habits in the southeastern United States. Our objection was to determine prey items consumed by free-ranging coyotes living on Berry College lands in northwestern Georgia.
One hundred and twenty-seven coyote scats were collected from May 2005 through August 2006 along seven major service roads that transected the 28.55 mi2 study area, and 270 prey items were identified. The four most frequently occurring prey items were Muridae rodents (26.3%), eastern cottontail rabbits (15.2%), white-tailed deer (13.7%), and eastern gray squirrels (10%). Fawn remains were slightly more frequent in coyote scats than adult deer (7.8% vs. 5.9%). Mammal remains (71.2%) comprised the largest prey category, followed by vegetation (10.7%), arthropods (7.4%), birds (3.3%), and reptiles (1.5%).
Significant seasonal fluctuations of prey items/prey classes were found (P<0.0001). Rodents (predominantly the Family Muridae) were most common in spring, vegetation (predominantly persimmons) occurred most frequently in fall, and arthropod consumption (predominantly grasshoppers) was constant throughout the year, except during winter months. Prey classes Artiodactyla and Lagomorpha were consumes year round, although fawns were an important prey item only in spring and summer months and eastern cottontails were most popular in the winter.