Monday, May 19, 2014

Space use of red wolves and coyotes-guest blogger, Dr. Joey Hinton

***Guest Blogger!***

This week, Dr. Joey Hinton, a recent graduate from the University of Georgia, joins us to describe some of his research focused on interactions between red wolves and coyotes in northeastern North Carolina.

Like many endangered species, we know very little about red wolf ecology because they were reduced to a single remnant population before scientists could study their behaviors. Human-caused mortality and red wolf hybridization with coyotes threaten red wolf recovery efforts. Despite these challenges, successful restoration of red wolves will occur in human-altered landscapes with the presence coyote populations. Therefore, understanding red wolf and coyote ecology is fundamental to successful recovery. Conducting studies on large endangered carnivores is challenging and I was fortunate to collaborate with the

Photos by J. Hinton.

 From 2009 through 2011, I assisted Red Wolf Recovery Program biologists with trapping red wolves and coyotes and radio-collaring individuals with global position system (GPS) radio-collars. GPS collars allowed us to collect locations on red wolves and coyotes 5-12 times/ day. With these data, I calculated the size and habitat composition of red wolf and coyote territories. These data provide insights into how red wolves and coyotes use and move through the landscape. 
Dr. Hinton and RWRP biologist fitting an animal with a radio collar.
Both species were mostly nocturnal with approximately 80% of all their movements occurring between sunset and sunrise. We found red wolves and coyotes to use similar habitats and preferred open, treeless agricultural areas over forested areas. Typically, red wolves and coyotes seek cover in agricultural crops (when available), fallow fields with high vegetation, and forested areas during the day. Once night came, both species leave cover and use open fields, forest edges, and dirt roads to hunt and defend territories.

Red wolf with GPS collar. Photo by J. Hinton.
We also found red wolves and coyotes to have two space use statuses: residents and transients. Residents are breeders and their offspring that maintain territories, whereas transients are typically young dispersing individuals with the intent to establish territories and reproduce. Transients rarely have breeding opportunities because they are solitary and nomadic until they find a mate. As a result, transients traverse over larger areas than residents do. For instance, transient red wolves and coyotes commonly traversed areas of 30 to 300 mi2 before establishing territories with a mate. This period can be between 2 weeks to 2 years. Once transients became residents, they establish territories that are much smaller. Red wolves typically defend areas about 19 mi2 whereas coyote territories are smaller at approximately 10 mi2.
Thank you to Dr. Hinton for sharing! Stay tuned for more research updates soon from our partners!

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