Dietary Patterns of Sympatric Bobcats and Coyotes in Central Mississippi

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) are sympatric in many areas; however, this sympatry has evolved relatively recently in the southeastern United States with coyote range expansion. Where the 2 species are sympatric, habitat selection and diets of bobcats and coyotes may overlap. Knowledge of seasonal variation in prey selection is required to assess interspecific competition and understand factors facilitating coexistence between sympatric species, yet long-term (>5 years) information on sympatric diets is unavailable. We collected and analyzed 1,183 scats (591 bobcat, 592 coyote) from 1991-1997 in central Mississippi. Diet was assessed using frequency information and frequency-based correction factors to determine seasonal prey consumption. Coyote diets were dominated by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), rabbits (Sylvilagus spp.), and fruits; whereas, bobcats consumed primarily rabbits and rodents. Deer comprised a large percentage of biomass consumed annually by both species, but was consistently higher for coyotes. Dietary overlap between the 2 carnivores varied seasonally, with lowest overlap during fall/winter. Our data suggest that bobcats may prey on mice in proportion to their availability. Coyote diets were more diverse than bobcats and, coupled with overlap estimates, suggest low interspecific competition between these sympatric species.

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