Tri-state Coyote Research Project

The coyote (Canis latrans) is an adaptive generalist carnivore of central and western North America that recently expanded their range into the southeastern United States. Similar to wolves, coyotes form packs that defend territories centered on important habitat resources, such as food, cover, and denning habitat that are not ubiquitous on the landscape. Although coyotes are common on the landscape, local distributions of territories are more variable with coyotes typically favoring open or early successional habitats more than forested ones. Coyote densities depend on their ability to establish territories, and territory size are known to vary and reflect potential differences in habitat quality across landscapes. However, many coyotes exhibit broad movements as solitary individuals in search of mates and territories. Therefore, coyotes exhibiting territorial behavior with a mate (e.g., site fidelity) are typically referred to as residents, whereas solitary, dispersing individuals are referred to as transients. Although transients represent a significant proportion of the non-breeding population, their long-distance movements are likely an important life history strategy strategy for coyotes because it facilitates population persistence through metapopulation dynamics and compensatory immigration.

Prey selection is another important aspect of coyote ecology known to influence their space use and habitat selection. Coyotes are generalist predators feeding primarily on mammalian prey, ranging from small mammals to ungulates, but also opportunistically on fruits, insects, and carrion. Coyote use of white-tailed deer has generated concern by wildlife managers in the southeastern United States, as recent studies have demonstrated widespread predation on fawns by coyotes during spring and summer. Furthermore, some authors have suggested scavenging by coyotes does not fully explain their use of white-tailed deer and that coyotes are likely capable of preying upon deer year-round. Regardless, interactions between coyotes and white-tailed deer in the southeastern United States remain poorly understood.

To better understand the ecological role that coyotes play in the southeastern United States, we broadly assessed coyote space use, habitat selection, and prey use in 3 states (Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina) while accounting for social status (resident vs. transient). Studying coyote movements and diet can provide important information on population parameters, such as dispersal and survival, that influence population persistence. To accomplish this, we radio-marked approximately 170 coyotes over and extensive areas of the Southeast to assess both resident and transient space use and habitat selection, and to assess diets of resident coyotes by collecting scats from known home ranges of radio-marked coyotes.

Publications:

Heppenheimer, E., Cosio, D.S., Brzeski, K.E., Caudill, D., Van Why, K., Chamberlain, M.J., Hinton, J.W., and vonHoldt, B. (2017). Demographic history influences spatial patterns of genetic diversity in recently expanded coyote (Canis latrans) populations. Journal of Heredity – accepted.


Significant interest in this project has resulted in numerous media requests for interviews with researchers. If you would like to request information or interviews, please contact only one individual from the team to avoid redundancies. If your request is better suited to another member of the research group, the person you contacted will forward the request to the appropriate individual.

UGA personnel involved in the project include:

Dr. Michael Chamberlain – Principle investigator

Dr. Karl V. Miller – Co-principle investigator

Dr. Joseph HintonPost-doctoral research associate