Tri-state Coyote Research Project

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Trapper Dan Eaton prepares to release a collared coyote on a Georgia study site.

Coyote ecology in the southeastern United States has received much attention in recent years, primarily as a result of their potential impacts on white-tailed deer fawns. Several studies in the Southeast have reported significant effects of coyote predation on fawn survival and it is generally assumed that habitat characteristics and coyote distribution across the landscape influences the susceptibility of fawns to coyote predation. However, coyote ecology in the Southeast has routinely been assessed on small study areas that are typically less than 500 km² (200 mi²). Because coyotes are highly mobile, patterns of space use, habitat selection, and predation within relatively small study areas can only provide part of the total knowledge into ecology of coyotes in the Southeast.

Extensive movements by coyotes involve decisions by individuals that contribute to key aspects of coyote ecology such as competition, foraging behavior, and habitat selection which, in turn, influence population structure and processes over broad geographic areas. Understanding how coyote populations structure themselves on the landscape and which landscape characteristics facilitate coyote movements is critical for making  reliable  inferences about coyote ecology and its impact on white-tailed deer herds.

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The coyote leaps away from the research team as soon as it realizes it’s been released.

Like other species in the genus Canis, coyotes take and hold territories to ensure optimal fitness through group living. This results in two distinct coyote space use patterns that have profound effects on coyote persistence on landscapes. Coyotes holding territories and exhibiting strict fidelity to areas are referred to as residents, and typically consist of breeding adults and their offspring. On the other hand, coyotes without territories who exhibit nomadic and extensive movements are referred to as transients. Transients are comprised of young dispersing individuals and older individuals displaced from territories that are seeking mates with which to establish territories. More importantly, transients typically fill in areas that become vacant when resident coyotes die.

Our study is designed to examine the ecology of resident and transient coyotes and how interactions between the two types of space use patterns stabilize population structure on the landscape. Assessing the effect of management strategies to reduce coyote populations requires understanding behaviors regulating coyote densities. To accomplish that, our objectives are to assess coyote space use over broad geographical areas in each of 3 states (Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina) to:

– Identify habitat characteristics where territories are established by resident coyotes

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The coyote takes a final glance back at the research team before disappearing.

– Determine the extent of contribution by transients to population stability via replacement of resident coyotes

– Evaluate the ancestry of coyotes and determine colonization routes into the Southeast using genetic analyses

Agencies involved in this project include the University of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Princeton University.

Coyote hunting and trapping are legal and, in the event of harvesting a radio-collared coyote, please call the University of Georgia at (706) 542-1378 so that research staff may arrange to pick up the collar at your convenience. Returning radio-collars allows us to continue using them to meet study objectives.

 


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