Title:  Seasonal Dietary Patterns of Coyotes (Canis latrans) and Black Bears (Ursus americanus) in Western Virginia
Author(s): David M. Montague, Marcella J. Kelly
Year: 2012
Abstract: The adaptability of coyotes makes it difficult to predict their effects on Virginia ecosystems based on coyote research from other regions. Recent white-tailed deer harvest data have shown a decline in harvest in the western part of the state, particularly on public land. Cumulative effects of black bear and coyote predation is one possible cause of this observed harvest trend. In May 2011, fieldwork began for the Virginia Appalachian Coyote Study (VACS). A primary objective of VACS is to estimate seasonal diet of coyotes and black bears in western Virginia and assess the potential for predation to limit deer numbers. Diet is determined by dissecting scat (feces) and identifying prey items based on remains such as bones, teeth, hair, and seeds. Samples are collected monthly along transects that follow roads and trails in the George Washington National Forest and surrounding state and private lands. Scats are identified using DNA collected from the scat. Prey abundance and availability for predation is estimated by small mammal trapping, camera trapping, vegetation surveys for fruit-bearing plants, and distance sampling of deer using infrared imagery. Frequency of occurrence of prey items in scat will be related to seasonal abundance of common prey species. To date, >450 scat samples have been collected, and >50 have been analyzed in the lab. Field collection will continue through spring 2013, and diet estimates from the first six months will be available by January 2012.

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