Meta-Analysis of Coyote Diet Reveals Differences by Geographical Region

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Abstract

It has been posited that coyotes (Canis latrans) in the Northeast eat more deer than those in the Midwest or other parts of the country due to their increased size. Further, it has also been posited that Northeastern coyotes do not frequently eat small mammals, creating a trophic cascade that increases the incidence of Lyme disease. However, no one has synthesized the many studies of coyote diets to quantitatively test these hypotheses. We examined 18 studies of the diet of coyotes from the Northeast and the Midwest and conducted a meta-analysis to test the hypothesis that the diet of coyotes in the Northeast differs from that of coyotes in the Midwest. Our results show that deer occur significantly more in the diet of Northeastern coyotes than in the diet of Midwestern coyotes, while small mammals occur significantly less. The occurrence of rabbits, hares, birds, vegetation, and fruit do not differ significantly by region. This supports the hypothesis that Northeastern coyotes, due to their larger size and hybridization with wolves, are better adapted at hunting large prey. Although Northeastern coyotes eat fewer small mammals than Midwestern coyotes, small mammals are still a common component of the Northeastern coyote diet. Thus the abundance of Northeastern coyotes is not likely to be positively correlated to the incidence of Lyme disease.

*Note* – Circumstances beyond WEI’s control, the full text of this analysis was not available at the time of this publication.