Coyotes are a major predator of white-tailed deer across the East, especially fawns born each spring, but wildlife managers nonetheless are able to stabilize and even grow deer herds, according to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
Coyotes -- Canis latrans -- are a relatively recent arrival to eastern North America, appearing first in the region in noticeable numbers in the 1970s. They are a significant source of deer mortality and most often prey on whitetails in the earliest months of their lives. Coyotes have long inhabited the American West.
With the range expansion of coyotes eastward, and their crossbreeding with gray wolves (Canis lupus) along the way, Eastern coyotes are larger than their Western counterparts. Many people are concerned that their predation may be adversely affecting Eastern deer populations. Recently, lawmakers in Pennsylvania proposed placing a bounty on coyotes to incentivize their destruction for the sake of deer.
In response to those concerns, researchers initiated a study to look at deer and coyote populations from southeastern Canada through the mid-Atlantic region to the Southeast. Using published study data from throughout eastern North America that included fawn mortality, adult doe survival and reproductive rates -- and even the effects of severe winter weather on deer survival and predation -- researchers studied how deer populations responded to changes in predation and hunter harvest.
The research, published in the May issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management, aimed to determine whether managers can compensate for coyote predation of white-tailed deer.
"The concern is that coyotes may be changing the established population dynamics of white-tailed deer herds through increased predation on fawns," said Duane Diefenbach, adjunct professor of wildlife ecology and leader of the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit based at Penn State
|Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer|