Coyote and bobcat food habits and the effects of an intensive predator removal on white-tailed deer recruitment in northeastern Alabama
VanGilder, Cory Lee
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This project was designed to investigate the seasonal diets of potential white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) predators and quantify their impact on deer recruitment in northeastern Alabama. I inferred predation impacts by comparing recruitment data before and after an intensive predator removal on a 2,000-acre study site. After predator abundance (as shown by scat deposition rates and a scent station index) on the site was reduced by intensive removal, fawn-to-doe ratios (as indicated by camera surveys, hunter observations, and web camera observations) increased on average 189%. Seasonal diets of coyotes (Canis latrans) and bobcats (Lynx rufus) indicated that coyotes consumed deer significantly more than bobcats, particularly during the fawning season. Overall, bobcats primarily consumed rodents, whereas the coyote diet was more diverse and varied temporally as seasonally abundant food items, including fawns, insects, and soft mast became available. Our results suggest predation, particularly by coyotes, on fawns may reduce recruitment in some areas of the Southeast. Intensive predator removals prior to fawning may be effective at increasing recruitment in some areas where herd productivity does not meet management objectives.