Author(s): Lauren N. Watine, William M. Giuliano
Coyotes (Canis latrans) are a relatively new predator to the southeastern United States, and may be negatively impacting white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus; hereafter, deer) populations. Our objectives were to evaluate the impacts of coyotes on deer fawns by assessing deer fawn survival and cause-specific mortality, and gain an understanding of factors affecting fawn survival and coyote predation. We captured and radio collared 30 fawns in the Red Hills region of Florida and Georgia, USA (2012-2013). Fawns were monitored for 12 weeks for survival and cause-specific mortality, and we quantified habitat and environmental characteristics of birth sites. Predation (n = 19; 95%) was the leading cause of fawn mortality (n = 20; 67%), with coyote predation (n = 14; 74%) being the most important type of predation. Survival rates for all fawns were greater (P = 0.048) where coyotes were removed compared to non-removal sites, with 50% and 25% of fawns surviving to 12 weeks on coyote-removal and non-removal sites, respectively. Survival rates of fawns ultimately predated by coyotes were greater (P = 0.096) on coyote-removal than non-removal sites, with 40% and 50% of fawns predated by coyotes within 12 weeks on coyote-removal and non-removal sites, respectively. Survival of all fawns and those predated by coyotes was lower when fawns were born at sites with greater hardwood basal area, total basal area, and canopy closure; and survival improved if born in or near hardwood, natural pine, and managed (planted) pine cover types. Increased canopy cover within 10 m of the birth site was selected by adult females for birth sites of all fawns and those that were predated by coyotes. Compared with fawns that lived, all dying fawns and those predated by coyotes had less shrub cover within 5 m and less grass cover at and within 10 m of the birth site. Coyote removal increased fawn daily survival rates, and habitat played a role in fawn survival.
See also: Comments to Paper