Coyote predation on the Rio Grande wild turkey in the Texas Panhandle and Southwestern Kansas
Houchin, Rachael L.
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From January 2000 to August 2004, we collected data on Rio Grande wild turkey (Meleagris gallapavo intermedia) survival, cause-specific mortality, movements, habitat use, roost use, and nesting at 4 study sites (3 in the Texas Panhandle: Matador Wildlife Management Area (MWMA) near Paducah, Texas, Salt Fork of the Red River private land holdings (SF) near Clarendon, Texas, and Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area (GHWMA) near Canadian, Texas, and 1 site on the Cimarron National Grasslands (CNG) near Elkhart, Kansas). During 2000-2002 turkey survival across the 4 sites was about 50% (Ballard et al. 2002). Coyotes were the most frequently cited predators of Rio Grande wild turkeys during the first 3 years of our study, identified in 147 out of 313 (47%) predation events (Ballard et al. 2003). We wanted to further study the impact of coyotes on adult (= 1 year old) and juvenile (6 months to 1 year old) Rio Grande wild turkeys in the Texas Panhandle and Southwestern Kansas, by examining and comparing relative abundances and food habits of coyotes at our four study sites. To estimate relative abundance of carnivore species at our study sites, we used scent stations as our primary method and scat surveys as a secondary method to corroborate scent stations. We examined the food habits of coyotes at our study sites through scat analysis, using scats collected from our scat surveys. Proportions of prey species were expressed using percent of scats (POS) and percent of occurrence(POO). Scent station visitation by coyotes was not different among sites in any season (Fall 2003 ?2 = 7.5067, P = 0.0574; Spring 2003 ?2 = 1.6263, P = 0.6535 Summer 2003 x?2 = 4.4270, P = 0.2189 and Winter 2004 ?2 = 1.6442, P = 0.6494, Table 2.1). Raccoons (n = 37) were the second-most frequent visitor, and were significantly different among sites during each period (Fall 2003 ?2 = 17.2083, P = 0.0006; Spring 2003 ?2 = 8.8584, P= 0.312 Summer 2003 ?2 = 7.9598, P = 0.0468 and Winter 2004 ?2 = 8.6458, P = 0.0344). Raccoons were detected more frequently at the SF (?2 = 4.5, P = 0.0339) and MWMA (?2 = 4.5, P = 0.0339) than the CNG site during the Spring sampling period. During the Summer period, raccoons were detected more frequently at SF scent stations than at MWMA (?2 = 4.35, P = 0.0370). Raccoons were detected more frequently in the Fall period at the SF than all other sites (CNG ?2 = 10.28, P = 0.0013; MWMA ?2 = 7.02, P = 0.0081; GHWMA ?2 = 5.11, P = 0.0237). During the Winter period, raccoons were detected more frequently at SF (?2 = 5.56, P = 0.0184) and GHWMA (?2 = 4.02, P = 0.0450) than MWMA. Diet composition of coyote scats (n = 374) consisted of 27 prey types, primarily small mammal species (n = 11) and vegetation (n = 8), followed by large mammal species (n = 3), medium mammal species (n = 2), avian species (n = 2), reptiles (n = 1), and insects (n = 1). Prey occurrences were primarily small- [n = 194, 40.76 Percent of Occurrence (POO)] and medium-sized (n = 73, 15.33 POO) mammals. The most common prey occurrence across all sites and seasons was Eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)(n = 69, 14.50 POO), identified in scats at all sites. White-footed (Peromyscus leucopus), and deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), (n = 42, 8.82 POO), and hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus, n = 28, 5.88 POO) were the most common prey types in the small mammal prey category. We detected avian species (n = 13, 2.73 xi POO) in coyote scats at SF (n = 6), GHWMA (n = 2), and CNG (n = 4) sites. Turkey was <1% of all food items, detected only at SF (n = 2) and CNG (n = 1).