Seasonal and Spatial Variation in Diets of Coyotes in Central Georgia

We used scat analysis to evaluate the food habits and potential impacts of coyotes (Canis latrans) on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations in Georgia's Piedmont physiographic region. From March 2010 - February 2011, we analyzed 146 and 207 coyote scats on Cedar Creek (CC) and B. F. Grant (BFG) Wildlife Management Areas, respectively. Although separated by only 8 km, habitat composition and therefore prey availability was dissimilar between sites. We assumed small mammal density was greater on BFG than CC because early successional habitat was more common on BFG (28% of area vs 7% on CC). Similarly, estimated deer densities on BFG (29 deer/km2) were approximately twice that of CC (12 deer/km2). Commonly occurring food items in scats on both areas included persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia), deer, hispid cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus), cottontails (Sylvilagus spp.), and insects. From July - October, soft mast occurred in 61% and 93% of scats on BFG and CC, respectively. From January - October, small mammals occurred in a greater percentage of scats on BFG (38%) than on CC (9%), except during the fawning season (May - June). During the fawning season, 61.5% and 26.7% of scats contained fawn remains on BFG and CC, respectively. Increased availability of fawns on BFG likely made them a more energetically profitable prey choice than on CC, where deer were less abundant, despite greater density of alternative prey on BFG. Habitat management to increase the availability of small mammals as alternative prey for coyotes may have minimal impact on coyote depredation of white-tailed deer fawns.

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