Abstract

Title:  Non-Consumptive Effect of Coyotes on Deer
Author(s): L. Mike Connor - Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center; Michael J. Cherry - University of Georgia; Keri E. Morgan - University of Georgia; Brandon T. Rutledge - Joseph W. Jones Ecological Center; Robert J. Warren - University of Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Year: 2014
Abstract: Increasingly researchers acknowledge that non-consumptive predator-prey interactions can have profound effects. We propose that coyote effects on deer may transcend direct mortality and that the non-consumptive interactions and their implications for deer populations and habitats should be investigated. We used a combination of monitoring data and experimentation to evaluate the potential for non-consumptive effects of coyotes on deer nutritional condition, reproductive strategy, and herbivory patterns on the Jones Ecological Research Center, in southwestern Georgia. We predicted harvest weights of 466 adult does from an 11 year period, and using an information theoretic approach we found support for the effects of predation risk (Β=-1.42±0.69) and individual attributes (i.e., age [Β=-1.44±0.31], evidence of lactation [Β=-1.11±0.55]), but not resource availability. To evaluate the effects of predation risk on reproductive fitness we measured ovulations rates of does during a coyote decline. We found that during low coyote abundance, ovulation rates (1.5 CL/female deer) were 1.7 times greater than during high coyote abundance (0.9 CL/female deer, P = 0.03), despite increased deer abundance and similar nutritional condition. Increased recruitment was better explained by ovulation rates than survival rates of marked fawns. We previously demonstrated predator exclusion influenced deer foraging and therefore we measured the abundance of 10 selected browse species in predator exclosures and controls. Selected browse species were 1.3 times more abundant in controls (P=0.009). We suggest coyotes may have substantial non-consumptive effects on deer and their habitats in the Southeast, and that future research should investigate these interactions.

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