Investigating the Potential Role of Coyotes on Caribou Populations on the Island of Newfoundland

Wiersma, Yolanda (2009) Investigating the Potential Role of Coyotes on Caribou Populations on the Island of Newfoundland. Project Report. The Harris Center.

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The impact of coyotes on wildlife and agricultural resources in the province are of major concern to residents of rural Newfoundland (sheep farmers, outfitters, hunters, trappers). The coyote is a relatively recent arrival on the island of Newfoundland, and determining how to best manage this predator requires both an understanding of its ecology, and of the dimensions of human-coyote relationships. This project is investigating the biology and ecology of coyote dynamics in the Mount Peyton area (central Newfoundland, south of Bishop’s Falls). Caribou are an economically important species in the province, and are currently in decline. One of the possible reasons for caribou decline is increased predation by coyotes. This project is being conducted in close collaboration with biologists from the provincial Wildlife Division, as well as with local outfitters and trappers. It is anticipated that findings from the proposed project will directly inform policy and management decisions relevant to wildlife management in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. An understanding of the potential impact of coyotes on caribou populations will assist the Wildlife Division in developing management strategies that will contribute to the sustainability of wildlife resources in the province and to the development of the hunting/outfitting industry. Other questions being addressed are the role of small mammals as an alternate prey for coyotes as well as general questions about coyote ecology (behaviour, territory size, etc.). The objectives of the proposed project are as follows: 1) To investigate the potential role that coyote (Canis latrans) may play in the recently observed declines in woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus) on the island of Newfoundland. These declines are having a negative impact on the hunting/outfitting economy in rural Newfoundland. 2) To better understand predator-prey dynamics between coyotes and large and small mammals Since 2007, we have conducted three summer and one winter field season. In the first summer field season we successfully deployed 1 GPS collar, and observed coyote pups in the area, as well as made a number of sightings of caribou. As well, coyote scat was collected from across the study area, which is being analyzed for diet composition. Scats are also being subjected to DNA analysis to confirm identity as coyote (coyote scat can sometimes be mistaken for fox) and hopefully to identify how many individual coyotes are within the area. Winter field work has consisted of transect surveys to identify prey densities, as well as snow tracking to identify coyote behaviour, movement, kill locations and den sites. Recent field work has focused on non-invasive sampling, including calling/recording vocalizations, tracking and scat collections and monitoring.

Item Type: Report (Project Report)
Item ID: 211
Keywords: Coyotes, Caribou, Predator control, Population dynamics, Habitat use, Predation, Wildlife management, Mount Peyton, Small mammals
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Biology
Divisions > The Harris Centre
Date: 18 March 2009
Date Type: Publication
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