Evolving niche of the “coy-wolf” in northeastern forests and implications for biodiversity
Funding source: Northern States Research Cooperative
Funding period: Sep 2010—May 2012
PI(s): J. Frair, M. Teece
Coyotes (Canis latrans) have become the top predator throughout most of the Northern Forest in the past few decades. Given that coyotes complete with and predate upon a wide array of species, their potential to exert strong top-down influences on community structure is great. Coyotes are known to limit populations of smaller carnivores, like red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and to predate upon white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) – either of which may have cascading trophic effects that influence the Northern Forest ecosystem. This research asks three questions fundamental to understanding the ecological role of coyotes in the Northeast: 1) what is the dietary niche of coyotes and how does it overlap that of native predators in the region?, 2) have coyotes become white-tailed deer specialists?, and 3) what proportion of deer consumed by coyotes are actually killed by coyotes? Each of these questions is critical to tracing the pathways linking the growing coyote population to changes in biodiversity. The research will be the purview of a M.S. student at SUNY-ESF who will compare contemporary and historical coyote diets, calculate niche overlap among coyotes, red fox, and bobcat (Felis rufus), and will estimate the rate at which coyotes kill adult and fawn deer. The work will be conducted in the central Adirondack region of New York State, and, added to a growing body of information on coyotes elsewhere in NY, will provide a comprehensive picture of the ecological niche of the coyote and in the Northern Forest and its implications for biodiversity.
Link to full proposal here.
For more information, contact Scott Warsen (firstname.lastname@example.org; 518-582-4551).