The Influence of Prey Availability and Vegetation Characteristics on Scent Station Visitation Rates of Coyotes, Canis latrans, in a Heterogeneous Environment
Keywords:Coyote, Canis latrans, habitat use, heterogeneous environment, prey availability, scent station, Illinois
AbstractWe investigated the effects of local prey fluctuations and habitat variables on the scent station visitation rates of the Coyote (Canis latrans) in northern Illinois within a heterogeneous environment. Availability of small mammalian prey was assessed by monthly mark-recapture sampling and visual counts conducted along three, 192-m transects in each of seven habitats that ranged from grassland to wooded sites. Habitat metrics, which included foliage density, ground cover, and canopy cover, were also collected for the same seven habitats. Visitation rates of Coyotes were determined from scent station lines parallel to the small mammal trapping transects. A multiple regression analysis indicated that Coyote visitation rates across the study site were influenced positively by vole (Microtus spp.) abundance and negatively by canopy cover. When Coyote visitation rates were regressed on vole abundance for only the habitats in which voles occurred, the relationship was not significant. This may be attributed to the general avoidance of wooded areas by Coyotes. Coyotes did, however, respond to experimentallyinduced abundant patches of Peromyscus. These findings suggest Coyotes selectively use grassland habitats within a heterogeneous environment and may modify their use according to prey availability.
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