Coyote diet in North America: geographic and ecological patterns during range expansion
1. Coyotes Canis latrans have expanded their geographic range by 40% in thelast 120 years, raising questions about their ecological impacts in the newlycolonised areas. Despite a wealth of local knowledge on coyote diet in NorthAmerica, we have little information about how and why diet might varythroughout the species’ range.
2. We conducted the first rangewide meta-analysisof coyote diet by investigatinghow ecoregion, coyote mass, environmental conditions, presence of top predatorsand alternative food items are related to coyote dietary diversity, as wellas consumption of small mammals, lagomorphs, vegetation and ungulates.
3. Using data from 93 studies, we used generalised linear mixed models todetermine which variables best explained coyote dietary patterns.
4. Coyotes were generally more carnivorous in temperate forests than in otherecoregions, primarily due to greater ungulate consumption. Dietary diversitywas most influenced via a negative effect of mammal consumption; coyotediet was more diverse in the spring and where human footprint was greater.There was minor variation in small mammal consumption, but lagomorphconsumption was greater in spring and winter and when coyotes were larger.Vegetation consumption was greatest in summer and autumn. Ungulate consumptionwas positively related to coyote mass, snow cover and the presenceof grey wolves Canis lupus.
5. Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors were related to coyote diet. Larger coyotesate larger foods, which parallels the relationship between mass and prey size across the carnivore guild. Wolves and humans have opposing effects oncoyote diet. Coyotes seem to prioritise eating wild mammals, though morework is needed to quantify scavenging. Collectively, our findings emphasisethe need for continued local or regional studies to understand the highlyvariable ecological effects of coyotes within the diverse ecosystems they currentlyinhabit and are poised to inhabit.