Seasonal food habits of coyotes (Canis latrans) in the central Texas Hill Country
Canis latrans (coyotes) are a ubiquitous predatory species, and have long received attention from livestock managers and wildlife protection advocates due to their predation on domestic animals, and the increasing occurrence of human-coyote conflicts. Food habit studies aid in the understanding of a predator's role in their habitat. Through scat analysis, food habits of C. latrans were studied at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area (KWMA) in Hunt, Texas to examine seasonal differences in prey item consumption for individuals inhabiting the central Texas Hill Country region. Scat samples were collected along a 22.05-km route composed of dirt and paved roads every three weeks for one calendar year. Contents of the scat were classified as being from one of nine prey categories (arthropod, bird, boar, carnivora, herpetofauna, lagomorph, ungulate, unknown, or vegetation), and then quantified by counting the prey items. In addition, mass was measured (by prey category) and point-frame analysis for each scat sample was completed to determine relative percent cover. Spatial autocorrelation analysis was conducted, including the variables road type, habitat type, and optimized hotspot analyses. There were significant seasonal differences in percent count, mass and point-frame for carnivora, herpetofauna, lagomorph and vegetation. There were significantly more samples collected on paved roads compared to gravel roads, more collected in ashe juniper/live oak shrubland habitat than other habitats, and more from the southwest corner of the property, compared to other locations. Using this baseline compilation of preferred prey items of C. latrans in the Hill Country, more effective and ecologically-friendly management practices can be developed.