Date of Award:

4-2010

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Eric M. Gese

Abstract

Increased snowmobile use in mountainous terrain has been highlighted as a conservation concern for some Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) populations. Snow compaction resulting from winter recreation may potentially facilitate access by coyotes (Canis latrans) to habitats used by lynx during winter. Increased interactions could result in either exploitation or interference competition between the two species. Two recent, yet geographically distinct, studies showed contrasting findings regarding coyote movements and their use of snow-compacted trails during the winter. These findings suggest coyote association with snow-compacted trails may be regionally specific and dependent upon ecosystem dynamics and snow characteristics. The objectives of this study were to document diet, space use, and movements of coyotes occupying deep snow regions and explore whether a potential existed for increased interactions between coyotes and lynx due to snowmobile activity. We documented seasonal variation in coyote diets using scat collections to assess dietary overlap with lynx. Coyote resource use within and among habitats containing snowmobile activity was examined using coyote backtrack surveys during two consecutive field seasons in northwestern Wyoming.

Although scat analysis findings suggest dietary overlap was not significant between coyotes and lynx during the winter or overall (all seasons combined), we lacked adequate sample size of lynx scats to determine if dietary overlap occurred during the fall, when coyote use of snowshoe hare peaked (24.1 % of all fall occurrences). Coyote backtrack surveys revealed that coyotes not only persisted in habitats used by lynx throughout the winter, but that snow compaction resulting from winter recreation use appeared to influence coyote movements during the winter months. Microhabitat analysis revealed that snow conditions influenced coyote behaviors and habitat use.

This research provided insight into the impacts of winter recreation on coyote diet and habitat use during the winter months in northwestern Wyoming. In addition, these results have implications for local lynx populations in the southern periphery of their natural range. These results may assist land management agencies in planning and implementing management strategies to enhance lynx recovery, and may be used to guide decisions regarding areas designated for winter recreation and areas proposed for expansion of winter activities.

Comments

This work made publicly available electronically on November 22, 2010.

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