Date of this Version
Published in The Journal of Wildlife Management (2011) 75(4): 905–912. DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.109
Coyotes (Canis latrans) may affect adult and neonate white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) survival and have been implicated as a contributor to the decline of deer populations. Additionally, coyote diet composition is influenced by prey availability, season, and region. Because coyote movement and diet vary by region, local data are important to understand coyote population dynamics and their impact on prey species. In southeast Minnesota, we investigated the effect of coyotes on white-tailed deer populations by documenting movement rates, distances moved, and habitats searched by coyotes during fawning and nonfawning periods. Additionally, we determined survival, cause-specific mortality, and seasonal diet composition of coyotes. From 2001 to 2003, we captured and radiocollared 30 coyotes. Per-hour rate of movement averaged 0.87 km and was greater (P = 0.046) during the fawning (1.07 km) than the nonfawning period (0.80 km); areas searched were similar (P = 0.175) between seasons. Coyote habitat use differed during both seasons; habitats were not used in proportion to their availability (P < 0.001). Croplands were used more (P < 0.001) than their proportional availability during both seasons. Use of grasslands was greater during the fawning period (P = 0.030), whereas use of cropland was greater in the nonfawning period (P < 0.001). We collected 66 fecal samples during the nonfawning period; coyote diets were primarily composed of Microtus spp. (65.2%), and consumption of deer was 9.1%. During the study, 19 coyotes died; annual survival rate range was 0.33–0.41, which was low compared with other studies. Consumption of deer was low and coyotes searched open areas (i.e., cropland) more than fawning areas with dense cover. These factors in addition to high coyote mortality suggested that coyote predation was not likely limiting white-tailed deer populations in southeast Minnesota.