U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Parsons MA, Garcia A, Young JK. 2022. Scavenging vs hunting affects behavioral traits of an opportunistic carni- vore. PeerJ 10:e13366 http://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.13366


Copyright 2022 Parsons et al. Distributed under Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0


Background. Human-induced changes to ecosystems transform the availability of resources to predators, including altering prey populations and increasing access to anthropogenic foods. Opportunistic predators are likely to respond to altered food resources by changing the proportion of food they hunt versus scavenge. These shifts in foraging behavior will affect species interactions through multiple pathways, including by changing other aspects of predator behavior such as boldness, innovation, and social structure. Methods. To understand how foraging behavior impacts predator behavior, we conducted a controlled experiment to simulate hunting by introducing a prey model to captive coyotes (Canis latrans) and compared their behavior to coyotes that continued to scavenge over one year. We used focal observations to construct behavioral budgets, and conducted novel object, puzzle box, and conspecific tests to evaluate boldness, innovation, and response to conspecifics. Results. We documented increased time spent resting by hunting coyotes paired with decreased time spent active. Hunting coyotes increased boldness and persistence but there were no changes in innovation. Our results illustrate how foraging behavior can impact other aspects of behavior, with potential ecological consequences to predator ecology, predator-prey dynamics, and human-wildlife conflict; however, the captive nature of our study limits specific conclusions related to wild predators. We conclude that human-induced behavioral changes could have cascading ecological implications that are not fully understood.