Does Spatial Structure Persist Despite Resource and Population Changes? Effects of Experimental Manipulations on Coyotes

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Journal of Mammalogy






American Society of Mammalogists

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We tested the influence of a change in food resource distribution on space use and diet of coyotes (Canis latrans). We focused on 2 facets of space use: maintenance of home ranges by residents, and establishment of home ranges by immigrants after a coyote removal program. The study was conducted on 2 populations of coyotes in southern Texas. In both populations, a clumped, high-quality food source was added to randomly selected feeding stations to measure the influence of food distribution and abundance on home-range patterns, trespassing rates, and consumption of native prey. In established home ranges, coyotes visited and foraged at stations regularly and were found closer to stations during the treatment period. Although there was no overall treatment effect on home-range size (F = 1.66, d.f. = 5, P = 0.15), home ranges without supplemental food remained stable in size, whereas home ranges that had received supplemental food increased during the posttreatment period (t = 2.09, d.f. = 1, P = 0.04). Core areas showed a similar trend; there was no overall treatment effect (F = 1.51, d.f. = 2, P = 0.24); however, core areas of home ranges that received supplemental food were smaller than those of controls during the treatment period (t = 2.71, d.f. = 1, P < 0.01). There were no statistical differences in occurrence of any species, such as small mammals or white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), in scats of treatment versus control coyotes. Coyotes within the study site after removals were located closer to feeding stations during treatment than posttreatment (F = 8.83, d.f. = 1, P < 0.02,n = 897) periods, yet home-range size with supplemental food was larger than home-range size during the posttreatment period. Our findings suggest that a resource other than food influences coyote spatial patterns.