A common name to watch for in whitetail research is Dr. Karl Miller. He is heading up some of today’s most significant research from the Warnell School of Forestry at the University of Georgia. I recently reviewed one of his research projects that is a work in progress. A topic getting a lot of attention these days is the impact coyotes have on the landscape. Once less numerous, coyotes have expanded their range and density across much of eastern North America. Twenty years ago, I was working with researchers from the University of Tennessee and some of their biologists were doing coyote scat studies to gauge whitetail fawn kill. Their findings were pretty grim for whitetails. During fawning season coyotes were having a big impact. But with modern technology we are learning more.
The University of Georgia study I’m going to refer to is not yet completed but some data is starting to come in. Researchers captured 165 coyotes and fitted them with new GPS collars. Of the coyotes captured 80 were male dogs and 85 females. The study spanned three states: Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.
One of the goals is to determine potential colonization routes into southwest states. Understanding these travel patterns will help wildlife managers set seasons and make predictions on fawn survival and manage whitetail herds.
What preliminary results are showing is that in contrast to whitetails, which have a small home range, coyotes are ranging far and wide. New GPS technology has proven to be a breakthrough tool in managing wildlife. Now biologists know exactly where the instrumented coyotes are going and when.
Here is what the research is turning up so far. Data suggests that 70% of the coyotes tagged were adults with an established home range. Adult coyotes have a home range that spans about 3000 acres or 4.7 square miles. But the surprising bit of data now coming in suggests that the remaining 30% are transients, possibly younger dogs. Preliminary research indicates that their home ranges extended between 8000 and 85,000 acres. That is 12.5 square miles up to 132 square miles.
With this kind of expansion by part of the population, filling new niches in the habitat may be on fast forward for coyotes.