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Using diets of Canis breeding pairs to assess resource partitioning between sympatric red wolves and coyotes

April 1, 2017

Foraging behaviors of red wolves (Canis rufus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) are complex and their ability to form congeneric breeding pairs and hybridize further complicates our understanding of factors influencing their diets. Through scat analysis, we assessed prey selection of red wolf, coyote, and congeneric breeding pairs formed by red wolves and coyotes, and found that all 3 had similar diets. However, red wolf and congeneric pairs consumed more white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) than coyote pairs. Coyotes forming breeding pairs with red wolves had 12% more white-tailed deer in their diet than conspecifics paired with coyotes. Contrary to many studies on coyotes in the southeastern United States, we found coyotes in eastern North Carolina to be primarily carnivorous with increased consumption of deer during winter. Although prey selection was generally similar among the 3 groups, differences in diet among different breeding pairs were strongly associated with body mass. Larger breeding pairs consumed more white-tailed deer, and fewer rabbits (Sylvilagus spp.) and other small mammals. Partitioning of food resources by sympatric red wolves and coyotes is likely via differences in the proportions of similar prey consumed, rather than differences in types of prey exploited. Consequently, our results suggest coexistence of red wolves and coyotes in the southeastern United States may not be possible because there are limited opportunities for niche partitioning to reduce competitive interactions.

Publication Year 2017
Title Using diets of Canis breeding pairs to assess resource partitioning between sympatric red wolves and coyotes
DOI 10.1093/jmammal/gyw233
Authors Joseph W. Hinton, Annaliese K. Ashley, Justin A. Dellinger, John L. Gittleman, Frank T. van Manen, Michael J. Chamberlain
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Mammalogy
Index ID 70186553
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center