Coyote and Bobcat Predation on White-tailed Deer Fawns in a Longleaf Pine Ecosystem in Southwestern Georgia

Managing white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations requires an understanding of fawn survival and cause-specific mortality. In the Southeast, coyotes (Canis latrans) and bobcats (Lynx rufus) can be major sources of fawn mortality and may limit some white-tailed deer populations. We captured and radio-collared 47 fawns at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in southwestern Georgia during 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2012 to quantify cause-specific mortality and survival. Fawn survival to 20 weeks of age (i.e., opening day of firearms season) was 29.0%. Coyote predation accounted for 52.4% of all fawn mortalities and 68.7% of predation-caused mortalities, while bobcat predation accounted for only 9.5% of all mortalities and 12.5 % of all predation. During 2007 and 2008, we quantified and then compared the percentage of coyote and bobcat scats that contained deer remains during the fawning season. Deer remains occurred more frequently in coyote scats (40% of 167) than in bobcat scats (16% of 71). Collectively, these results suggest predation has profound effects on fawn survival in our system. Similar to other studies, our results suggest that in areas where bobcats and coyotes are sympatric, white-tailed deer are not a major component of bobcat diets. Finally, our study provides further evidence that coyote predation can be a substantial source of fawn mortality that may influence population dynamics of white-tailed deer in the southeastern United States. We suggest managers monitor fawn recruitment and adapt antlerless harvest accordingly.

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